Heavy Storms in Forecast for Cyber Experts

puter_world_project.jpgIt is only natural – especially in the heat of a presidential campaign – that discussions about security threats focus on those of a physical nature. But there has been a flurry of attention and activity of late around cybersecurity and the importance of simulating the types of massive digital attacks that governments (U.S. and foreign) and private sector enterprises may increasingly face.

Earlier this week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff held court with bloggers to discuss President Bush’s classified government-wide cyber initiative, while at the same time emphasizing improved coordination required by Federal civilian agencies to protect cyber assets.

Chertoff implored patience as the Administration formulates a more substantive cyberstrategy that will likely not be finalized until 2009. For Federal IT vendors that provide services and products that support cybersecurity activities, the pie may grow larger after, as Chertoff puts it, “get our own house in order.”

But the Secretary’s comments do not mean that Cyber efforts aren’t already underway. During the course of this week, the U.S. Government is testing its ability to handle digital attacks through a series of cyber war games. The exercise – which goes by the code name Cyber Storm II – folds in IT experts and incident response teams from 18 federal agencies, state officials, foreign governments and dozens of companies such as Microsoft and Cisco.

Those playing the games who successfully respond to cyber incidents are “rewarded” with even more difficult challenges, but ultimately the success of the $6.2 million exercise hinges on Public/Private Sector cooperation since the participating organizations oversee more than 80 percent of the country’s critical infrastructure (both physical and cyber).

While Chertoff sets expectations that the Administration’s classified cyber initiative has a ways to go, Federal IT contractors and integrators with solutions that aid cybersecurity will be watching – if not participating – in the coming week’s exercise. And no doubt they will also be eyeing the fate of President Bush’s additional $83.1 million request for the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team for fiscal 2009.

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