Mitigating Cyber Attacks

July 20, 2009 — Mr. Gregory Garcia, former assistant secretary for Cybersecurity and Telecommunications at the Department of Homeland Security and president of Garcia Strategies, and Mr. Gary Woods, cyber security specialist for Rsignia, Inc. and former senior computer scientist for CSC and former program manager for the Einstein Program, joined us for a discussion on the strategies and challenges mitigating cyber attacks.

The discussion centered on the current challenges to strengthening cyber security facing both the public and private sectors.  Currently, the digitized networks that control much of the critical infrastructure in the U.S. – such as water treatment, oil and gas refineries, and food and pharmaceutical production – remain vulnerable to cyber attacks.  Attributing the sources of such attacks, however, remains one of the most challenging aspects of cyber defense.

The nexus between cyber security and the physical security of critical infrastructure illustrates the urgency of improving the security of these networks as a matter of public safety.  Given the vast amounts of vital information and physical infrastructure connected to U.S. networks, the mission to fortify digital systems against foreign and domestic attacks is a priority of the highest order. 

Government agencies have vastly improved the security of their networks through the Homeland Security Department’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). In 2004, US-CERT employed the Einstein Program, which began monitoring participating agencies’ network gateways for traffic patterns that indicate the presence of computer worms or other unwanted traffic. By collecting traffic information summaries at agency gateways, Einstein gives US-CERT analysts and participating agencies a big-picture view of nefarious activity on federal networks.

The Einstein Program’s ability to correlate cross-agency security incidents has resulted in much tighter network security. US-CERT is currently working on a way to extend this protection to the networks that contain critical US infrastructure, but this could require licensing the sharing of proprietary information.

Security for a New Century is a bipartisan study group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. Please call (202) 223-5956 for more information.

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