Government: the Role it Plays in Cyber Security

Written by Mike Flouton. Posted in Blog Post

Last up in our National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) blog series – government. This month, we’ve taken a closer look at several different industries on the front lines in the battle for cyber security: banking, healthcare, and utilities. We now look at the government’s role in thwarting cybercrime at both the national security and private levels.

The government has a dual role as it relates to cyber security; its primary responsibility is to protect the interests of its citizens but it also needs to ensure that its own critical data is being protected from attack. This is an incredibly difficult task given the layers of complexity within government IT networks. This was highlighted by a recent report stating a network within the White House was compromised. While the Internet security team at the White House was able to move quickly to isolate and eradicate the threat without any loss of data, it underscores the point that if the most secure address in the country can be breached, everyone is at risk.

Dealing with cyber threats is not a new concept for the federal government but the frequency, funding and sophistication of attacks over the past several years necessitates a reexamination of policy. To provide a formal framework for dealing with cyber threats, the government launched the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) in January of 2008. The CNCI consists of a number of mutually reinforcing initiatives with three primary goals defined to help secure the United States in cyberspace:

  • Establish a front line of defense against today’s immediate threats by creating or enhancing shared situational awareness of network vulnerabilities, threats, and events within the Federal Government—and ultimately with state, local, and tribal governments and private sector partners—and the ability to act quickly to reduce our current vulnerabilities and prevent intrusions.
  • Defend against the full spectrum of threats by enhancing U.S. counterintelligence capabilities and increasing the security of the supply chain for key information technologies.
  • Strengthen the future cybersecurity environment by expanding cyber education; coordinating and redirecting research and development efforts across the Federal Government; and working to define and develop strategies to deter hostile or malicious activity in cyberspace.

The thrust of these initiatives can be summed up in one word: information. At the heart of any comprehensive cyber security initiative is the gathering of intelligence, sharing of data and education on critical threats. During the past 3 – 5 years, the government has made a concerted effort to work with the private sector to both expedite defenses and educate users on how to quickly detect attacks.

The debate surrounding formal government legislation will continue for some time. Yet, it is clear that the government will play a critical role in the battle to defend against cyber attacks as it is the only entity with the resources to combat threats originating from foreign entities and to track the multiple footprints of today’s most serious threats.

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