The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS, the Department) primary assignment is to “stop terrorist assaults within the United States,

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS, the Department) primary assignment is to “stop terrorist assaults within the United States, decrease the exposure of the United States to terrorism, and curtail the harm, and assist in the recovery from terrorist attacks that do happen in the United States (fas.org 2015). Since being created in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security has maintained intelligence with the purpose of supporting this mission.  DHS is a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).

The Department of Homeland Security’s Operations Node retains close and constant associations with other federal and private sector partners to allow and organise an incorporated working “picture, provide operational and situational awareness, and facilitate CIKR information sharing within and across sectors”(dhs.gov, 2009). The DHS’s operational components include the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and U.S. Secret Service (USSS).

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Congress has made the sharing of information between departments a top priority. A responsibility of DHS as an intelligence organization, is to disseminate appropriate, information analysed by the Department within the Department, to relevant agencies of the U.S. government “with responsibilities related to homeland security, and to agencies of State and local government and private sector entities, with such responsibilities in order to assist in the deterrence, prevention, pre-emption of, or response to, terrorist attacks against the United States.”(dhs.gov, 2009).  In order to develop the way DHS manages its intelligence and data sharing responsibilities, former Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff strengthened the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) and made the Assistant Secretary for Information Analysis the Chief Intelligence Officer (CINT) for the Department. Chertoff also gave I&A the task of ensuring that intelligence is matched, fused, and analysed inside the Department to deliver a mutual operational picture; deliver a main linkage between DHS and the Intelligence Community (IC) as well as serve as a the chief basis of data for state, local and private sector partners (dhs.gov, 2009).

Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) initiatives

The Secretary of Homeland Security works to develop the National Critical Infrastructure Protection Plan (CIP) to support implementation of critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) risk management and supporting activities and programs. This Plan delivers the attention and management mechanisms necessary to attain goals provided in the President’s Physical and Cyber Security CIKR Protection Strategies. According to the DHS those goals demand a “systematic national effort to fully harness the Nation’s research and development capabilities” (dhs.gov 2009).  CIP plan is created to tackle the main issues confronted by the numerous sector partners and to safeguard a coordinated program that yields the highest value through a wide range of interests and requirements. The plan addresses both physical and cyber CIKR protection.

According to the Department of Homeland Security the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) provides a coordinated approach to critical infrastructure and key resource protection roles and responsibilities for federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector security partners. NIPP details how government and private sector contributors in the critical infrastructure community collaborate to handle risks and accomplish (dhs.gov, 2015).  Similarly the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) resulting from an executive order was called to development of a “voluntary risk-based Cybersecurity Framework – a set of industry standards and best practices to help organizations manage cybersecurity risks” ( National Institute of Standards and Technology. 2014). The resulting Framework, was also created through partnership between government and the private sector, with the use of a simple term to address and manage cybersecurity hazard. The advancement of the NIST approach over the NIPP plan is that the NIST method employs a more cost-effective approach based on business needs without placing additional regulatory requirements on businesses.  The Framework emphases the use of business drivers to guide cybersecurity activities rather than mandates from government, as well as considering cybersecurity risks as part of the organization’s risk management processes ( National Institute of Standards and Technology. 2014).  The NIST is also committed helping organizations understand the Framework.

Vulnerabilities that should concern IS Professionals

The fear that malicious individuals could possibly shut down much of the U.S. infrastructure with the use of Cyber-attacks is an issue that should concern most IS professionals. As recently as February 2011, congress proposed a bill “for protecting both federal computer networks and critical infrastructure owned by the private sector against cyber-attacks” (Greenemeier, 2011). The vulnerabilities of such an attack would be the loss of control of the national electric grid, communication and information systems (including the internet) and water facilities, just to name a few.  One suggestion made in congress would be to remove control for elements of critical infrastructure from vulnerable access. The would simply mean removing remote control access to power stations, water pumping facilities and such other elements of critical infrastructure.  Another suggestion would be to ensure that “private companies that run critical infrastructure to comply with government demands for increased cyber security” and abide by strict government set guidelines (Greenemeier, 2011). One more option would be to allow the United States government to identify cyber threat and then intercede to protect critical infrastructure systems. This would involve giving the government a virtual “Kill switch” for Critical Infrastructure connectivity.

As it stands, Infrastructure security, may best be handled on an individual basis. A single solution for every problem may actually serve to work against security.  Persons with malicious intent would simply have to determine how to invade the prevailing security and then be able perform wide-spread attacks. However, if each component element is allowed to create its own security, while still holding to the framework guidelines set, then a relatively high level of security can be achieve. This level of security can be increased by sharing information of failed as well as successful attempt to breach infrastructural security.

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