U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, addressed the Society at the networking luncheon on Monday. On the eve of the 11th anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks, Napolitano recounted some of the security progress made since those attacks, including advances in public-private cooperation, increased information sharing, and increases in the details of the information that is provided to law enforcement from the private sector.
Napolitano thanked attendees for “all that you do to contribute to the security of the United States, our communities, our economy, and our people.” Napolitano referred to DHS’s work with the private sector as ever expanding. “It’s built on the recognition that when it comes to preventing acts of terrorism, the private sector, the firms just like yours, are often on the front lines and in the best position to recognize early signs of a potential attack.
Napolitano said she wanted to focus on an issue that demands “urgent and sustained” attention: the threat to the cyber infrastructure. Napolitano said cyber attacks have increased significantly in the three-plus years that she has served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Last year, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) responded to more than 106,000 reports, said Napolitano, and the organization released more than 5,000 cybersecurity alerts to the public and private sectors.
We should not assume that cyber attacks target only government and corporate networks, said Napolitano, who added that there are real-life victims as well. One attack she cited was the case of a water plant in Texas that had to disconnect its control system from the Internet after it discovered that a hacker had posted photographs of the facility’s internal control system online.
Napolitano said that the threats can be addressed by fostering a culture of shared responsibility. She named various initiatives that DHS has undertaken to combat the cyber threat. For example, the agency is working to protect its civilian agency networks by employing technology to detect and respond once intrusions are detected. Some of the agencies DHS is cooperating with include the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Secret Service. Outreach is integral to the effort, according to Napolitano. “Raising the cyber education and awareness of the general public creates a more secure environment,” she said.
The private sector plays a critical role in cybersecurity, said Napolitano, who highlighted programs aiming to coordinate public and private responses to cyber threats. She said DHS is sharing threat information with the private sector, helping companies to identify vulnerabilities, and providing forensic assistance to aid response and recovery after incidents.
Innovation is critical to keeping networks safe, said the secretary. She spotlighted the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, which is working to develop and employ tools such as more secure Internet protocols.
It is also important to develop a well-trained cybersecurity workforce for both the federal and private sectors, said Napolitano. “You are a critical part” of the effort for cybersecurity, said Napolitano to attendees. Napolitano referred to the cyber threat as the “most dynamic and indeed potentially the most threatening area of risk that we confront today.”
Monday’s luncheon kicked off with an introduction of ASIS International’s 2012 Board of Directors and the 2012 Accolades award winners by ASIS’s 2012 president, Eduard Emde, CPP. Emde went on to announce the recipients of the President’s Award of Merit, Arthur Kingsbury and Michael E. Knoke, CPP.