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[] Cyber security chief sees 'business approach' at DHS,

Cyber security chief sees 'business approach' at DHS

By Paul Roberts
IDG News Service
June 26, 2003

The atmosphere in the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
is one of chaotic energy, akin to a "dot com," but the new agency will
need a more business-like approach to successfully fight terrorism,
according to Robert Liscouski, Assistant Secretary of Homeland

Liscouski was in Framingham, Mass., Thursday, speaking with members of
the press and discussing the government's plans to fight
cyberterrorism and protect the nation's critical infrastructure.

As the Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security for Infrastructure
Protection in the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection
Directorate (IAIP), Liscouski is responsible for overseeing programs
to secure the nation's critical infrastructure and core services,
including the DHS's new cybersecurity division.

Liscouski said that the DHS must first answer fundamental questions
about its mission and many functions such as "What business are we
in?" and "Is this the right business to be in?"

Like a business, the DHS must define both short- and long term
objectives, be willing to experiment with different techniques on a
small scale and react quickly to large disruptions such as the
emergence of new threats or further terrorist attacks.

Fit and tanned, wearing pressed slacks and a casual, short sleeve
shirt, Liscouski looked more like an executive who just wrapped up 18
holes of golf than a government employee within the leviathan DHS.

With extensive experience in law enforcement and the private sector,
including a stint as Director of Information Assurance for The
Coca-Cola, Liscouski expressed skepticism about the big-program
approach favored by federal agencies.

"My motto is 'Think big, act small, scale fast,'" Liscouski said.

Such an approach will help in the battle against terrorism, where the
government has to learn to "think like terrorists" in order to
anticipate attacks and be quick to respond to new threats and attacks,
he said.

The emphasis on private sector strategies was a recurrent theme for
Liscouski throughout the hour-long question and answer session.

On the issue of whether the government should mandate that
corporations owning critical infrastructure comply with federal
security standards, Liscouski came down hard on the side of voluntary
compliance with industry "best practices" instead of government

Liscouski called audits for compliance with regulations "post facto"
events and questioned the efficacy of recent efforts at regulation
such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of
1996 (HIPAA).

Passing audits doesn't make organizations secure, he said.

Noting that 80 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure is in
private hands, Liscouski said that the private sector "owns" the
problem of securing it and should be allowed to develop its own
solutions to the problem with help and guidance from the federal
government .

Instead of standards, the government should offer incentives to
industry to encourage the adoption of secure practices and technology,
he said.

Liscouski also weighed in on the heated debate about whether the Bush
Administration is giving short shrift to the issue of cybersecurity.

The DHS's cybersecurity division is still without a chief after being
taken out of the White House and placed far down in the IAIP

Some industry experts have said that demoting the function sent a
message that cybersecurity was not a priority for the Administration.

While cybersecurity is a critical component of the critical
infrastructure, placing the cybersecurity function higher up within
the DHS would create a "dysfunctional" atmosphere by separating IT
infrastructure from other kinds of critical infrastructure, Liscouski

"You've got to have a holistic approach," he said.

On the issue of vulnerability disclosures, Liscouski said that the
IAIP will "enhance" its relationship with the CERT Coordination Center
and look for ways to reach out to software companies and security
researchers and encourage responsible disclosure practices.

Among other things, Liscouski said he favored the Freedom Of
Information Act exemption for critical infrastructure information in
the bill creating the DHS, saying there had to be a balance between
the public's need to know about security vulnerability and protecting
the proprietary interests of software makers.

"In order to get companies to share vulnerability information, we have
to engender trust," he said.

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