Federal computer emergency response team debuts

"The goal is to share what we know when we know it," said Frank Libutti, undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection at the department.

Henrik G. de Gyor

A new unit in the Department of Homeland Security's National Cyber Security Division will improve the department's response time to cybersecurity threats, department officials said today as they announced the formation of the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team.

"The goal is to share what we know when we know it," said Frank Libutti, undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection at the department.

In addition, Amit Yoran will become director of the National Cyber Security Division, said Bob Liscouski, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the department.

Yoran is vice president of worldwide managed security services at Symantec Corp. The Cupertino, Calif., company provides security solutions to government and the private sector.

The department will partner with the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, to create U.S. CERT, which will coordinate response to cyberattacks, as well as prevention and protection efforts.

"The recent cyberattacks, such as the Blaster worm and the SoBig virus, highlight the urgent need for an enhanced computer emergency response program that coordinates national efforts to cyberincidents and attacks," said Tom Ridge, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Carnegie Mellon's CERT-CC alerts U.S. industry and computer users worldwide to computer security threats and provides information about how to avoid, minimize or recover from damage. The center has coordinated responses to recent cybersecurity threats, such as the Sobig.F virus.

CERT-CC is part of the university's Software Engineering Institute, a federally funded research and development center operated by Carnegie Mellon for the Department of Defense.

The partnership will bring about a single, streamlined center for immediate response, using resources from government, industry and academia, Liscouski said.

"We'll have one point of contact ? to get consistently reliable information," he said.

Liscouski said U.S. CERT would improve cybersecurity in government and the private sector by:

  • Developing open standards for detection tools;

  • Improving response time to cybersecurity threats to 30 minutes by the end of 2004;

  • Improving coordination of warning and response information;

  • Improving detection methods

  • Carnegie Mellon's CERT-CC has been working with the department since it was created last year, but the new arrangement will "help us make the relationship tighter and streamline communication paths," said Richard Pethia, director of the CERT-CC at Carnegie Mellon.

    The department's budget request for fiscal 2004 includes more than $60 million for NCSD, including U.S. Cert, Liscouski said. Part of the funding will be used to help Carnegie Mellon's CERT-CC improve its capabilities, he said.

    "We'll have to build a communications infrastructure. ? That's where funding might be helpful," Pethia said.

    Industry executives said they support the effort to create a single source of threat information for the public and private sectors.

    "Coordination is a critical factor in responding to cyberthreats. U.S. CERT, along with the National Cyber Security Division itself, is another positive step toward building bridges between organizations, improving response times, sharing information and ultimately improving the safety and reliability of our country's critical infrastructure," said Vincent Gullotto, vice president of the Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team at the Santa Clara, Calif., computer security firm Network Associates Inc.

    The Business Software Alliance praised the department's selection of Yoran to lead the department's cyber security efforts.

    "We are pleased that Mr. Yoran, a renowned information security expert, has agreed to take on such a vital role," said Robert Holleyman, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based industry group. "Mr. Yoran has worked extensively in the public and private sectors to prevent and respond to information security breaches. He knows firsthand the vast threats that exist today and what needs to be done to quickly identify, assess and mitigate those threats."

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