Homeland Security unveils new IT security team

'The goal is to share what we know when we know it,' said Frank Libutti, undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection at the department. 'U.S. CERT provides a tremendous opportunity to reach out to the business community and the home user.'

Henrik G. de Gyor

A new unit in the Homeland Security Department's National Cyber Security Division will improve the response time to cybersecurity threats, DHS officials said today as they announced the formation of the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team.

'The goal is to share what we know when we know it,' said Frank Libutti, undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection at the department. 'U.S. CERT provides a tremendous opportunity to reach out to the business community and the home user.'

In addition, Amit Yoran will become director of the National Cyber Security Division, said Bob Liscouski, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection. Yoran is vice president of worldwide managed security services at Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif.

The department will partner with the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University to create U.S. CERT, which will coordinate responses to cyberattacks, as well as work on prevention and protection efforts.

'The recent cyberattacks, such as the Blaster worm and the SoBig virus, highlight the urgent need for an enhanced computer emergency response program that coordinates national efforts to cyberincidents and attacks,' Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge said in a statement.

Carnegie Mellon's center alerts U.S. industry and computer users worldwide about computer security threats and provides information about how to avoid, minimize and recover from damage. The center has coordinated responses to the recent spat of cybersecurity threats.

The CERT Coordination Center is part of the university's Software Engineering Institute, a federally funded R&D center run by Carnegie Mellon for the Defense Department.

The partnership with Homeland Security will bring about a single, streamlined center for immediate response, using resources from government, industry and academia, Liscouski said.

'We'll have one point of contact ' to get consistently reliable information,' he said.

Liscouski said U.S. CERT has four objectives:

  • Develop open standards for detection tools

  • Assure a 30-minute response time to cybersecurity threats by the end of next year

  • Improve coordination of warning and response information

  • Enhance detection methods.


  • 'We are going to take risks, we are going to make mistakes, and we are going to make adjustments,' Liscouski said. 'We all own the problem, and we all own the solution.'

    One effect of creating U.S. CERT will be to consolidate the government's four separate watch centers for cyberevents, which operate at three locations, said Lawrence C. Hale, director of the Federal Computer Incident Response Center. The four watch centers are FedCIRC, the National Communications System, the former National Infrastructure Protection and the DHS watch center. 'All four will collapse into one location,' Hale said.

    FedCIRC will retain its identity as an activity within U.S. CERT. 'You don't want to take away from its current capabilities'it is important that we maintain current levels of service,' Hale said.

    Libutti said the IAIP Directorate soon would move its personnel into a facility vacated by the Navy at DHS' headquarters in Northwest Washington. The renovated facility will include state of the art broadband connections and high-level security for as many as 500 directorate employees, he said.

    Sallie McDonald, acting director for outreach and awareness at the National Cyber Security Division, said the IAIP Directorate had hired SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va., to provide support to U.S. CERT.

    Carnegie Mellon's center has been working with the department since it was created last year, but the new arrangement will 'help us make the relationship tighter and streamline communication paths,' said Richard Pethia, director of the CERT Coordination Center.

    The department's budget request for fiscal 2004 includes more than $60 million for the cybersecurity unit, including monies for U.S. CERT, Liscouski said. Part of the funding will be used to help Carnegie Mellon's center improve its capabilities, he said.

    'We'll have to build a communications infrastructure. ' That's where funding might be helpful,' Pethia said.

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