By most objective measures, 2014 was not a good year for the Department of Homeland Security. As we enter 2015, I sense there is a slight bit of subjective optimism that, under the leadership of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, things are getting better. Here are the opportunities (and potential challenges) for the Department in 2015.
“Balkanization” is a splitting into many opposed factions closely located in one area. It ain’t good to be Balkanized, but that is what is happening to the Internet, and there is nothing Washington can do about it. The Obama Administration’s move to let go of U.S. government control over the naming rights of Internet sites is being viewed as the latest in a long line of U.S. withdrawals from control of the Internet.
On Thursday, February 27, 2014, Security Debrief and Catalyst Partners will host the First Annual Chris Battle Homeland Security Colloquium. Security Debrief’s expert contributors will come together to discuss and debate the current state of U.S. homeland security, DHS, and the threats and priorities the country will face in the year ahead.
By Gary Warner
This week, President Obama unveiled a set of guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and a new public-private partnership program. While I join with others in applauding Mr. Obama’s creativity in making progress in protecting our nation’s cyber infrastructure, it is important to note what is and what is not being addressed by these guidelines. Where, for example, does the Target Breach fall?
Last Thursday, a chemical storage tank leaked about 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River, just one mile upstream from the West Virginia American Water plant. Thankfully, the water plant owner was forward thinking enough to invest in preparedness before an immediate need arose. This undoubtedly helped the plant respond to the chemical leak. Something tells me there’s a lesson there.
Last week, the Center for Effective Government (CEG) posted online a comprehensive list of how much chlorine water utilities have onsite and provided the specific coordinates of where they are stored. This information, while already available in the public domain, has never before been put on a single website because it could more easily give bad actors information to use for nefarious purposes. Here are a few questions for the CEG.
On Monday night, the Washington Sanitation and Suburban Commission (WSSC) announced that in order to do emergency repair work on a major main, it would be shutting down water service to roughly 150,000 people for a period of several days. Unfortunately, instead of celebrating this as a victory and recognizing how well WSSC handled this situation from top to bottom, there are those who are choosing to find ways to blame the utility for causing public alarm.
In an era of diminished budgets and vanishing security grants, a recent break in at the Carters Lake Water Treatment Plant in Georgia highlights how the federal government is leaving small water systems, and the communities they serve, hanging in the wind. I’m not suggesting DHS throw obscene amounts of money at rural water systems, but I would argue that these systems can make major strides with small amounts of money.
In 1999 a technology manager called Kevin Ashton coined the phrase “The Internet of Things”. Today, these “things” now include elements of our critical national infrastructure via what are called SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems or ICS (Industrial Control Systems). Unfortunately, these systems can be just as vulnerable to attack as our laptops.
Senior US intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency (NSA) Director, Army Gen. Keith Alexander, last month continued the cyberwar drumbeat with warnings to Congress that the US is woefully unprepared for a major cyberattack against critical infrastructures.