When you listen to the podcast, moderated by SearchCompliance.com associate editor Alexander B. Howard, you’ll hear Hathaway’s answers to the following questions and more:
It was “like a paintball fight in an Escher painting” at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Garcia described, “with great affection.”
Jokes aside, Garcia, who spoke at the CA IT Government Expo this week in Washington, was clear in describing what it was like in the crucible of the DHS making cybersecurity policy. “Our adversaries right now are better organized and better motivated than we are,” he said. “We, as a nation, are at an inflection point in this national cybersecurity challenge. We have a foundation for organizational structure in the private sector. We need to build a trust framework. If you don’t have an affirmation of trust, even with the same team, you’re not going to be able to get to an effective real-time response.”
Garcia, who served as assistant secretary for CS&C from 2006 to 2008, broke down the components of the Comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative (CNCI) that President Bush signed in January 2008. The CNCI consists of 12 elements aimed at improving cybersecurity on federal networks. “We were seeing terabytes of data flowing out of .gov networks,” said Garcia.
CNCI components include intrusion detection and prevention, research and development into so-called “leap ahead” technologies and better situational awareness, coordinated through the National Cybersecurity Center.
Garcia advocated for better counterintelligence for cybersecurity, “classified network security,” perhaps referring to the Einstein monitoring tool and improved cybereducation and training.
Echoing the NERC CSO’s remarks last month, Garcia has had to think through how deterrence strategy changes in cyberwar, especially when other nation states are in the electric grid or government networks. “What point does a cyberattack become an act of war?” he asked. “How do you make it more dangerous for our adversaries to attack us? A lot of it has to do with attribution.”
Garcia affirmed the need for a Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) for ISPs, but said that “it needs to be market-driven, at least for now, until we can determine if there’s market failure. Every infrastructure sector has different business models and risk models.” Garcia provided what may be a controversial example: an initiative where major investment banks came together and “designed their own FISMA, if you will,” with auditors to assess financial network security.
When it came to the utility of FISMA in assessing cybersecurity readiness, however, Garcia had few kind words. “FISMA has not been successful, primarily because it has been a box-checking exercise,” he said. “It is not evaluating security. That’s a very hard thing to do, because you have different threat models and vulnerability environments.”
IT executives from the Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services represented the largest proportion of respondents to the study, which was sponsored by CA Inc.
The study found that 63 percent of respondents perceived the increasingly mobile workforce “as contributing significantly to endpoint security risks as a result of insecure mobile data-bearing devices that are susceptible to malware infections as well as insecure wireless connectivity.”
[Image by Getty Images via Daylife]
Perhaps reflecting the current zeitgeist around the “Government 2.0” movement and compliance concerns around enterprise 2.0 tools, the study showed that 79% of respondents see increased use of collaboration tools as a significant risk to data protection.
Specifically, the use of social computing platforms is increasing the storage of unstructured data that could contain sensitive information in a repository that is not effectively secured. Fifty-two percent of respondents identified the use of Web 2.0 applications as a vector for increased risk for sensitive data loss, including social networking, social messaging and wikis.
Unstructured data and outsourcing were viewed as the top two root causes creating increased cybersecurity risks for insecure sensitive and confidential information among respondents. This concern is reflected at the Department for Homeland Security, where application security has been referenced as both a supply chain risk and a cyberterrorism threat.
As reported by the study, 38% of respondents were unsure if there had been cybercrime on the network in the past year. What’s perhaps more significant is the 2% to 5% of people who know that it had happened. And that may not reflect the true total.
“I do feel the numbers are underreported,” said David Hansen, CA’s corporate vice president and general manager of the company’s security management unit. “In the past, cybercrime incidents have tended to be brushed under the carpet. More pressure on disclosure has forced some changes to happen and is helpful for awareness.”
Data breaches, by way of contrast, must be published or reported, and 34% of respondents said that their agency had experienced two to five data breaches in the past year. Overall, 75% of respondents said that their agency had experienced a data breach in the last year. Respondents overwhelming chose wireless networks as the primary threat vector, followed by endpoints and networks.
Finally, 48 % of respondents said their organization isn’t taking appropriate steps to comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and 55% don’t have adequate security technologies to protect information assets and critical infrastructure.
“When I talk to government agencies, they look at FISMA compliance as a necessary evil,” said Hansen. “I think they might have to either redefine it to address new threats and create a lower common denominator or push for accountability.”
The question now, as bills like the ICE Act or the Cybersecurity Act work their way through Congress, is whether FISMA reform will adequately address the vulnerabilities that government IT executives are worried about.
“The problem is that, in many cases, government doesn’t have a lot of control of a lot of critical infrastructure, like manufacturing, power plants or private networks,” said Hansen. “Part of cybersecurity is about critical infrastructure and things that are not covered by FISMA. Most of those systems have no viruses or malware protection. That hasn’t been an issue because those systems weren’t connected to the Internet. Now, systems are being connected and are creating massive exposures that just weren’t there before.”
The Ponemon Institute’s “Cybersecurity Mega Trends” study is available for download from CA.com as a PDF.
In an interview with correspondent Steve Kroft, cybersecurity expert Jim Lewis calls a federal data breach in 2007 “our electronic Pearl Harbor.” In the transcript of the segment, available at CBSNews.com, Lewis said. “Some unknown foreign power, and honestly, we don’t know who it is, broke into the Department of Defense, to the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, probably the Department of Energy, probably NASA. They broke into all of the high-tech agencies, all of the military agencies, and downloaded terabytes of information.”
Lewis also spoke about the penetration of U.S. military networks, specifically the United States Central Command (CENTCOM). Lewis believes the data breach was accomplished by foreign spies leaving corrupted thumbnail drives in locations where U.S. military personnel would be likely to pick them up. When a drive was inserted into a CENTCOM computer, a malicious application on the drive opened a back door for hackers to access the system. According to Lewis, the Pentagon has now banned thumbnail drives. (David Mortman offered advice last year about whether enterprises should also ban USB drives.)
60 Minutes has also posted several short video interviews online that offer more time with Lewis, including “Hacking the ATMs,” “Hacking the DOD” and “The Holy Grail,” where Lewis talks about the security of the financial system. In “Online Jihad,” Shawn Henry, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, discusses potential cybersecurity threats from Islamic fundamentalism.
The report from 60 Minutes coincides with our own coverage. Growing cybersecurity threats to critical infrastructure and the electric grid have put a new focus on NERC regulations, as well as FISMA, warned NERC’s chief security officer, Michael Assante. Melissa Hathaway, former acting senior director for cyberspace for the National Security and Homeland Security councils, also spoke of the need for better public-private cooperation at the same cybersecurity panel in Washington that Assante spoke at last month. And Lewis says that new rules for cyberwar are being defined as the risks grow.
IT security pros and analysts alike know that intrusions, breaches and a growing cybersecurity threat aren’t anything new. Dave Lewis, a veteran security practitioner and blogger, commented that “the overwhelming FUD was troublesome.” Dan Kennedy, CISO at the Praetorian Group, wished that “the FBI would knock off the cloak-and-dagger routine when they’re asked a follow up question.”
Regardless of where you stand on the 60 Minutes report, one fact remains clear: The White House still hasn’t appointed a cybersecurity coordinator.
As Marc Ambinder observed at TheAtlantic.com, “last night’s 60 Minutes feature on cybersecurity may add a sense of political urgency to the debate” about a cybersecurity coordinator.
Shane Harris, also writing about the broadcast of the segment on cybersecurity, also put the 60 Minutes report in perspective. “Although the piece didn’t make much news, it was news to most Americans. Full disclosure, I know the producer, Graham Messick, and while I don’t have any special insights into how he approached the subject, I think it’s fair to say that his work will change the cyber security debate in some fundamental ways.”
Harris wonders if the report could have an effect on legislation and subsequent regulatory compliance, like FISMA reform associated with further iterations of the ICE Act. “There are a number of bills pending in Congress that threaten to set requirements on companies to disclose the holes in their networks,” he wrote. “Those bills just got a major push last night. All in all, while 60 Minutes didn’t exactly blow the lid off anything last night, they have elevated the attention of this issue to new heights. That alters the political dynamics significantly.”
UPDATE: Wired Magazine has reported that the blackouts in Brazil in 2007 were “actually the result of a utility company’s negligent maintenance of high voltage-insulators on two transmission lines,” not computer hackers. 60 Minutes relied upon “unnamed sources” in claiming that the two-day outage described by Kroft in the Atlantic state of Espirito Santo “was triggered by hackers targeting a utility company’s control systems.”
Now, Wired reports the following:
The utility company involved, Furnas Centrais Elétricas, told Threat Level on Monday, it “has no knowledge of hackers acting in Furnas’ power transmission system.”
Brazilian government officials disputed the report over the weekend, and Raphael Mandarino Jr., director of the Homeland Security Information and Communication Directorate, told the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that he’s investigated the claims and found no evidence of hacker attacks, adding that Brazil’s electric control systems are not directly connected to the internet.
“We found that the role of CIOs in the federal government is very much focused on data centers, networking and technology, not on how we can transform the function of the public sector itself.” He explained that he wants to “leverage tech to fundamentally change the way the public sector operates.” Now, as the federal government works to account for each of the $787 billion in spending from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and publishes more data from its agencies, Kundra said, “we’re shifting away from democratizing data to thinking about how public policy can be powered by that information.”
Cloud computing, SOA and agile development
In tracing the path of technology from agrarian to industrial to the current information revolution, Kundra noted the transformative effect of both cell phones and social networking platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. “We’re seeing the impact that Twitter has on the geopolitical climate of the world,” he said. “Information is far more liquid than it has been in the history of civilization.” The disruptive effects of the online revolution in user-generated content are steadily filtering into government. The “Darwinian pressures” exerted upon real estate, real estate, consumer products and the automotive industry haven’t hit government yet, Kundra observed. “It’s easy to go online and compare consumer products, but it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to get information to make intelligent decisions.” In launching the contest Apps for Democracy, in fact, Kundra found a way to introduce an element of competition and innovation into an government IT ecosystem that was underserved in both areas.
Kundra has been a proponent of cloud computing for years, going back to his position as the CTO of the District of Columbia, where he signed a contract with Google for business services. Today, he emphasized the need for security, interoperability and data portability in federal government use of cloud computing. “As we make the shift towards cloud computing, security threats need to be addressed. Solutions cannot be bolted on afterwards. Data portability is central, so that as we move from Vendor A to Vendor B we architect this with interoperability and standards so that we don’t spend billions later.”
Questioned on whether service-oriented architecture still is an emphasis in a federal cloud computing paradigm, Kundra said SOA “absolutely” still matters. “Look at the Social Security Administration and what it’s done with SOA and local government,” he said. “They can build lightweight applications to interact with databases elsewhere.” That embrace of modern development practices extends beyond just SOA or upgrading programmers’ skills from COBOL. “How do we move towards an agile procurement or agile development methodology?” asked Kundra.
In some areas, the government is moving to make systems more interoperable. Kundra pointed to what what’s happening between the IRS and Department of Education in student aid. “Before, if you wanted to apply and get aid, you had to fill out a FAFSA,” said Kundra. “That form is more complex than a 1040.” Starting in January, there will be a brand new online way to fill out a Free Application for Student Aid, according to Kundra, which will eliminate 70 questions and 20 Web screens. “Students will be able to get IRS data and autopopulate it in the form for student aid.”
Government 2.0 and data-driven policy
As he grows into the U.S. CIO role, Kundra has continued to add to the areas where government IT spending and management has been and where he’d like it to go. IT systems were “not invested where they should be, which is at the intersection of the American people and government,” he said. As he put it, it’s a “simple change in default setting to being that of secretive, opaque and closed to transparent, open and participatory.”
The old mode involved the management of $70 billion of federal IT investments through a “closed, opaque, checklist-driven process,” Kundra said. Now USAspending.gov, the federal IT dashboard, tracks spending. The website has received more than 56 million hits since launch, according to Kundra. In the old way of thinking, there was a “presumption that the government has a monopoly on the best ideas,” said Kundra. Now, Data.gov provides machine-readable data for developers to mash up. Historically, there’s been a “complex, time-consuming, paper-based acquisition process,” said Kundra. Now, there’s Apps.gov.
Cybersecurity and FISMA reform
Kundra sees the same transition toward more flexible systems in cybersecurity. “We’re moving from a manual, reporting-based, compliance-focused approach to a real-time measurement of actual cybersecurity,” said Kundra, referring to the new “Cyberscope” system for online reporting of cybersecurity threats that launched in October. “You cannot address real-time threats with a solution that’s focused on reporting requirements on a quarterly basis.”
When you listen to the podcast, you’ll hear Titus’ views on:
Note: Our colleague Mike Mimoso also interviewed Titus about the Obama cybersecurity plan in June for Security Wire Weekly, when the strategy was first released. The episode also features security luminary Howard Schmidt and Paul Kocher, chief scientist of Cryptography Research.