DHS opens national cybersecurity operations center

Operation consolidates cybersecurity, communications in a move toward interoperability

The Homeland Security Department opened a new operations center today that integrates national cybersecurity and telecommunications monitoring systems and provides a new degree of situational awareness surrounding the nation’s communications, information technology and cyber infrastructure.

The new National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), combines two of DHS’ operational organizations: the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which leads a public-private partnership focused on defending the nation’s cyber infrastructure; and the National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications (NCC), the operational arm of the National Communications System.

In addition, the NCCIC will integrate the efforts of the National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC), which coordinates operations among the six largest federal cyber centers, the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and private-sector partners.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, speaking at ceremonies for the opening of the new center, said the NCCIC would make it possible to “co-locate, integrate and, over time, make interoperable our cybersecurity [activities] into a unified operations center.”

“Consolidating our cyber and communications operations centers within the NCCIC will enhance our ability to effectively mitigate risks and respond to threats,” she said.

She noted the facility would ramp up to full operation in two phases. The first phase would integrate the monitoring and response operations of U.S. CERT and NCC along with NCSC, where each organization would share information. The second phase would focus on expanding involvement with industry representatives.

Navy Rear Adm. Michael A. Brown, who serves as deputy assistant secretary for Cyber Security and Communications in DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, said the new center “will provide closer coordination with representatives from 18 industry sectors,” many of whom are expected to co-locate in an Arlington, Va., office building where the new command center was built.

The center also will coordinate with representatives of state governors, chief information officers and homeland security agencies around the country and connect virtually, to varying degrees, with regional law enforcement fusion centers.

The new 24-hour operations and response center was built in just 90 days, according to a representative from CSC, which played a lead role in building the center.

The facility features five wide-screen monitor arrays along the front wall capable of projecting any of a number of real-time data feeds, including DHS’ Einstein 2 Internet traffic inspection analysis and world wide telecommunications activity. Each workstation sports three monitors and state-of-the-art systems, capable of switching between secure and non-secure data feeds.

NCCIC was created at the recommendation of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, the Government Accountability Office and a joint industry-government working group, which together emphasized the need for collocation, integration, and interoperability among existing cyber and communications incident response mechanisms.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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