The White House Has A $19 Billion Cybersecurity Plan

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President Obama’s last budget calls for a new Chief Information Security Officer  (CISO) and $62 million to help hire 10,000 new workers. The White House recently proposed spending 35 percent more on IT security efforts in 2017 and announced an immediate opening for a US chief information security officer.

The funding and personnel adjustments come after a year of constant disclosures about agency hacks that, in the most egregious case, compromised 21.5 million background check records maintained by the Office of Personnel Management. Most recently, a Justice Department computer breach allegedly led to a leak of professional contact information for tens of thousands of FBI and Department of Homeland Security personnel.

A broad Cybersecurity National Action Plan accompanying the budget will detail the new federal crackdown on lax security, as well as consumer-oriented and industry data protection initiatives.

“It is intended to go after the underlying causes of our cybersecurity challenges, not just the symptoms,” Michael Daniel, US cybersecurity coordinator, said, in advance of the budget’s release. “Ultimately, we want to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, ensure public safety and economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.”

President Barack Obama proposes spending $19 billion on information security programs, up $5 billion from last year’s cyber-funding request.

The new US CISO, which the administration hopes to hire within the next 60 to 90 days, will be perched inside the Office of Management and Budget within 60 to 90 days and report to US Chief Information Officer Tony Scott.

The addition of a federal chief information security officer throws into question the role of the Department of Homeland Security in cyberspace.

The new official will “work closely with military and intelligence officials across the government,” Scott said. “That’s a key role that many private sector companies have long implemented and is good practice for the federal government.”

The addition of a federal CISO throws into question the role of the Department of Homeland Security in cyberspace. Congress in late 2014 assigned DHS the permanent task of overseeing civilian cybersecurity operations, including federal network protection.  Scott said the CISO’s responsibility differs from DHS’ duty in that the chief must exercise power of the purse.

“One of the things that’s unique about OMB,” he said, “is that, even just given its name, it has both management and budget responsibilities. And those are both two powerful things that can help shape and influence practice in each agency.”

Along with the new hire comes a request for $62 million to support federal cybersecurity hires across the board. Scott has previously said the government will need to fill about 10,000 openings for cyber professionals in 2016.

“We’ve all understood quite acutely that there’s a shortage of people skills with the right cybersecurity education and skills across the federal government,” Scott said Monday. The money would go toward programs, grants and scholarships “designed to enhance the quality of people and the quality of the skills in the cybersecurity workforce that are available to the government.”

The White House expects to publish a policy for national cyber-incident coordination, with a companion ‘severity methodology,’ later in the spring.

The government will work on a cybersecurity core curriculum to make sure graduates entering the federal government have the proper knowledge and capabilities.

The president’s proposals include retiring antiquated federal servers and IT systems and shaking up R&D efforts to ensure that next-generation technologies are more secure from the start.

But the plan has some big gaps. For one thing, while his new study commission includes a nod to national security in its mission statement, it does not explicitly include a mandate to create policies that will combat terrorists’ use of social networks for recruiting and spreading propaganda.

As for the most recently reported agency hack of DHS phone numbers, US officials are still sorting through what happened, said Daniel, who called the incident a “breach.”

“The truth is that no matter how good that we get, we will never stop 100 percent of all intrusions,” so the plan also includes incident response elements, he added.

The White House, by this spring, expects to publish a policy for national cyber-incident coordination across the public and private sectors, with a companion “severity methodology.” The hack scale is intended to help the government and industry describe the impact of situations in a way that will prompt a consistent level of response.

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