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DHS head: Businesses need to focus on cybersecurity

Chertoff also calls for incentives to private sector

By Grant Gross
August 11, 2005 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will focus significant efforts on cybersecurity and on working with private vendors to develop technologies designed to provide domestic security in the coming months, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said.
Chertoff, speaking yesterday at the InfraGard National Conference here, also called on private companies to make more of an effort to protect their cyberinfrastructures. He also said more incentives are needed for IT vendors to focus on cybersecurity. InfraGard is an organization started by the FBI to improve information sharing about critical infrastructure between the U.S. government and private industry.
One incentive for private companies to develop cybersecurity products would be to institute legal reforms that limit damages from product lawsuits, Chertoff said.
As an example, he cited the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, which limits liability for products designed to combat terrorism. But he said Congress should go further in protecting companies from product lawsuits.
However, private companies should already have good reasons to protect their infrastructures, he said. "There's also a very strong business case to be made for private-sector investment in security," he said. "In today's threat environment, active security measures are critical to businesses themselves, because the cost of an attack will very, very greatly outweigh the cost of protection."
Chertoff didn't discuss a May report from the Government Accountability Office, which said the agency has "not fully addressed any" of its 13 key cybersecurity areas. But much of his talk at InfraGard was focused on cybersecurity, while most past DHS efforts have focused on physical security.
Most of what the DHS has identified as the U.S. critical infrastructure is controlled by computers, Chertoff noted, and most of that infrastructure -- such as the nation's electrical grid and financial networks -- is owned by private companies. Chertoff called for a "21st-century style of organization" that includes government agencies working closely with private companies to protect important national assets.
"We all recognize that protecting these vital national assets is a shared responsibility and a partnership," he said. "The Department of Homeland Security does not and should not own and control all these systems."
The DHS will look at "all aspects of cybersecurity" in the coming months as it hires a person to fill the newly created position of assistant secretary for cybersecurity, Chertoff said. The agency will work to further develop partnerships with private companies to protect cybersecurity, and cybersecurity will be an essential part of a national infrastructure protection plan that the DHS is working on, he said.
Chertoff also called on private industry

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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