Department of Homeland Security Combats New Cybersecurity Issues
By Robert E. Hayhurst
Faculty Member, Homeland Security at American Military University
Cyber network defense is important in homeland security as it protects monitors, analyzes, detects and then responds to unauthorized activity within information systems. In the recently released Verizon 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report, the authors compiled data from 50 global organizations composed of private and public sectors. Another article from Homeland Security magazine cites from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) “reporting 31,593 cyber incidents, 28,000 vulnerabilities and sent out over 4,000 cyber-alerts to their 252,523 partners.” http://www.hstoday.us/focused-topics/cybersecurity/single-article-page/cyber-threats-growing-officials-tell-homeland-security-subcommittees.html
One particular issue that homeland security professionals encounter is that cyber products must be analyzed by the Intelligence Community to determine if the information is relevant. There is a shortage of qualified public sector information systems experts willing to forgo higher salaries in the private sector. DHS Cybersecurity comprises two mission-focused areas: The first being an inward approach and the second being an outward approach. Both focus areas are completed by two different DHS Components.
- The inward approach is done by the DHS Management Directorate – Office of the Chief Information Officer – Office of the Chief Information Security Officer – DHS Cyber Threat Division.
- The outward approach is done by the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate’s Office of Cybersecurity & Communications.
The DHS Cyber Threat Division serves as the Department’s primary cyber liaison for the federal network defense, law enforcement, and counterintelligence communities to detect and counter advanced cyber threats against the Department. DHS Cyber Threat Division works to uncover advanced threat actors targeting DHS networks while concurrently developing a deeper understanding of the ability of our adversaries to use cyber tools as a means for espionage, exploitation, and attack. DHS Cyber Threat Division continually devises countermeasures and technical support models for eradicating these pressing threats in an adaptive environment.
The Office of Cybersecurity & Communications is responsible for enhancing the security, resiliency, and reliability of the nation’s cyber and communications infrastructure. Office of Cybersecurity & Communications actively engages the public and private sectors as well as international partners to prepare for, prevent, and respond to catastrophic incidents that could degrade or overwhelm strategic assets. Office of Cybersecurity & Communications works to prevent or minimize disruptions to our critical information infrastructure in order to protect the public, the economy, government services, and the overall security of the United States. It does this by supporting a series of continuous efforts designed to further safeguard federal government systems by reducing potential vulnerabilities, protecting against cyber intrusions, and anticipating future threats. The challenge for homeland security professionals and those interested in the field is to mitigate the current threat while thinking ahead to prevent future ones. American Military University’s curriculum provides the education and exposure to faculty in the profession to enable learners to help their employers meet those threats.
The Top 5 Threats as Seen by Homeland Security Professionals
The question posed to many senior leaders who work in fields ranging from politics to policy “What keeps you up at night?” may be easily asked of today’s homeland security professionals at the federal, state and local sectors. At the DHS, one of our key documents of preparedness is Presidential Policy Directive-8 on National Preparedness. This document is intended to direct the preparation efforts of our country to meet threats to our security. Those threats include acts of terrorism, cyber-attacks, pandemics, and large scale natural disasters of such magnitude that state and local first-responders are overwhelmed. In the DHS Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) in 2010, they listed the top missions:
- Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security
- Securing and Managing Our Borders
- Enforcing and Administering Our Immigration Laws
- Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace
- Ensuring Resilience to Disasters
Currently, the threats listed above are not the only items homeland security professionals have to think about at night. Other topics include: the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), evaluation of the current state of equipment for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), updates to the QHSR, and improvement of the morale within DHS:
- Are there coordinating mechanisms in place to mitigate threats?
- What political and policy boundaries exist that prevent federal officials from working together?
- Mission integration between homeland security partners?
- Does the current command structure focus on the five threats?
- What about prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery?
- Eliminate redundancies in the department
- Future homeland security efficiencies
- Economics and departmental budgeting
About the Author
Robert E. Hayhurst is an Assistant Professor, School of Security and Global Studies and teaches undergraduate education in homeland security. His last assignment was the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs), Pentagon. In 2006, he retired with more than 26 years of service as a Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force, Medical Service Corps with multiple combat tours of duty. His background includes more than 34 years of experience in the public and private sectors including the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security. Robert is a board certified Diplomate & Fellow in health care administration. He is in the dissertation phase of his doctoral degree at Nova Southeastern University and holds five graduate degrees including the M.P.A. from American Military University.