Anyone looking for candor about the state of the federal cybersecurity mission found it the other week on Capitol Hill. That’s when Amit Yoran, chairman and CEO of NetWitness, gave testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security on the issue. Backed by his private and public sector work “” Yoran was the first director of the National Cyber Security Division “” Yoran offered a no holds barred assessment of DHS efforts on the cyber front. “The Department of Homeland Security has demonstrated inefficiency and leadership failure in its cyber efforts,” said Yoran. What’s next for DHS? And who should assume leadership on the cyber front? Yoran recently spoke to ExecutiveBiz on what it will take to re-align DHS and why he thinks handing the cyber mission to NSA would still be “ill-advised.”
At a recent hearing before the Committee on Homeland Security, you offered a candid assessment of DHS. What are your top recommendations to realign the agency?
Amit Yoran: First, refine DHS“™s mission with respect to cyber. Instead of trying to be all-encompassing, DHS would have greater success having specific, targeted objectives and programs that execute on those objectives in measurable, value-added ways to other parties. US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) is a great example “” I think programs like this need to be bolstered. Second, better define the roles of other parties: NSA, the Department of Justice, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, and other folks engaged in the cyber mission. Third, interacting with the private sector and crucial infrastructures is a critical opportunity for DHS.
Let“™s turn to NSA. You“™ve been quoted as saying that shifting the cyber mission to NSA is “ill-advised,“ particularly for securing ordinary commercial networks. Can you expand on that?
Amit Yoran: Sure. Naturally, as part of its intelligence mission orientation, the NSA routinely operates in a highly classified environment. While a high level of classification is necessary for intelligence work, it also makes working hand in glove with the private sector difficult; very few people in the private sector have clearances, as you know. If you have information that“™s actionable or relevant to defending all systems, a high level of classification makes it difficult to share effectively with the private sector and help them defend commercial networks.