The U.S. government is getting more serious about cybersecurity.
The advisory council that provides guidance to the Secretary of Homeland Security will soon contain a subcommittee dedicated to cybersecurity, according to a notice published in the Federal Register.
“The Cybersecurity Subcommittee will provide findings and recommendations to the Homeland Security Advisory Council on best practices sourced from industry, state and local government, academic experts, and community leaders,” the notice reads.
DHS oversees emergency-response planning and coordination for the federal government, and cybersecurity has taken on an increasingly important role as hackers’ capabilities have increased and breaches have become commonplace.
The department runs the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), which helps the public and private sectors share information about cyber threats. A controversial new bill, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), would dramatically expand that sharing.
As the public notice makes clear, however, DHS still isn’t sure how best to oversee the government’s response to cyberattacks, which have multiplied in recent years. Among the best-known examples are the late 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and the 2014-2015 breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
The new cyber subcommittee will be responsible for determining the government’s readiness to “meet the emerging cyber threat” and offering guidance on “building cross-sector capabilities to rapidly restore critical functions and services following a significant cyber event,” the notice says.
It’s likely that the subcommittee’s work will including assessing the viability of cyber counterattacks, a suggestion put forth by leading Republicans in the wake of the OPM hack. The Obama administration has been reticent to deploy its considerable cyber tools offensively, although the president did say after the Sony hack that the U.S. would respond “proportionally” and “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”
The Homeland Security Advisory Council is a group of government officials, first responders, law-enforcement agents, academics, and private-sector experts advising Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson on department operations.
Photo via U.S. Coast Guard/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)