Homeland Security to hire 1,000 cybersecurity experts

The Department of Homeland Security wants to hire 1,000 cybersecurity professionals in the next three years, according to agency Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The department has the authority to recruit and hire cybersecurity professionals across DHS over the next three years in order to help fulfill its mission to protect the nation’s cyber infrastructure, systems and networks, she said.

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“This new hiring authority will enable DHS to recruit the best cyber analysts, developers and engineers in the world to serve their country by leading the nation’s defenses against cyber threats,” Napolitano stated.

DHS is the focal point for the security of cyberspace -- including analysis, warning, information sharing, vulnerability reduction, mitigation, and recovery efforts for public and private critical infrastructure information systems.

The hiring authority, which results from a collaborative effort between DHS, the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget, lets DHS staff up to 1,000 positions over three years across all DHS agencies to fulfill critical cybersecurity roles, including cyber risk and strategic analysis, cyber incident response, vulnerability detection and assessment, intelligence and investigation, and network and systems engineering.

The need for DHS to bolster its security realm is a hot topic. A Government Accountability Office report this year said that while DHS established the National Cyber Security Division to be responsible for leading national day-to-day cybersecurity efforts that has not enabled DHS to become the national focal point for security as envisioned.

The GAO said the Defense Department and other organizations within the intelligence community that have significant resources and capabilities have come to dominate federal efforts. The group told the GAO there also needs to be an independent cybersecurity organization that integrates the capabilities of the private sector, civilian government, law enforcement, military, intelligence community, and the nation's international allies to address incidents against the nation's critical cyber systems and functions.

The cybersecurity jobs announcement comes on the same day that the FBI said fraudsters are targeting social networking sites with increased frequency. Users need to take precautions, the FBI warned.

The FBI said fraudsters continue to hijack accounts on social networking sites and spread malicious software using various techniques. One technique involves the use of spam to promote phishing sites, claiming there has been a violation of the terms of agreement or some other type of issue which needs to be resolved. Other spam entices users to download an application or view a video. Some spam appears to be sent from users' "friends", giving the perception of being legitimate. Once the user responds to the phishing site, downloads the application, or clicks on the video link, their computer, telephone or other digital device becomes infected, the FBI stated.

Meanwhile legislators are trying to encourage cooperation among universities and businesses to develop technology needed to carry out a strategic government effort to fight cyber attacks.

A U.S. House subcommittee is recommending a bill that calls for a university-industry task force to coordinate joint cybersecurity research and development projects between business and academia. The Cybersecurity Research and Development Amendments Act of 2009 was approved recently by the House Committee on Science and Technology's Research and Science Education Subcommittee.

The legislation would set up a scholarship program that pays college bills for students who study in fields related to cybersecurity. They would also get summer internships in the federal government. In return, the students would agree to work as cybersecurity professionals within the federal government for a period equal to the number of years they received scholarships. If there aren't any jobs there, they would work for state or local governments in the same capacity or teach cybersecurity courses.

This story, "Homeland Security to hire 1,000 cybersecurity experts" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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