DHS doesn t take cyberattack threats seriously, former IG says

HILTON HEAD, S.C. -- The United States and the Homeland Security Department are 'manifestly and woefully unprepared' for a cyberattack, the former DHS inspector general said.

Al Qaeda is training people and focusing on launching cyberattacks, but DHS has 'failed to make this a priority,' said Clark Ervin, the director of the Aspen Institute's Homeland Security Initiative and former DHS IG, speaking at the American Council for Technology's Management of Change conference here.

DHS is on its fifth cybersecurity leader. That is an indication of the department's lack of focus on this issue, he said, and it is an illustration of how unprepared the agency is to serve as a model for how cybersecurity should be handled.

Ervin, who has written a book, 'Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack,' said terrorists are keenly aware of where the country's weaknesses are and will work to take advantage of those weaknesses.

He referred to one IG report that stated DHS wireless networks were largely unsecured. If the agency isn't addressing issues as seemingly simple as securing wireless, what else is not getting done? he asked.

Ervin offered a somewhat damning view of the efforts to secure the country. He said the United States is safer today than it was before the 2001 terrorist attacks, but the real question that needs to be asked is whether the country is as secure as it should be and as it needs to be.

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