Cyber experts call for creation of new agency

Tuesday - 5/31/2011, 7:17pm EDT

Dr. Kristin Lord, Vice President and Director of Studies, Center for a New American Security

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By Ruben Gomez
Federal News Radio

The U.S. government should launch a new agency for coordinating its efforts to protect cyberspace, according to the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

The Office of Cyber Security Policy would fall under the Executive Office of the President and be "headed by a Senate-confirmed chief cybersecurity advisor to the president and director of cybersecurity policy," according to a CNAS report about improving cybersecurity.

The center said cyber insecurity could become one of the biggest threats to the federal government and national security.

"There are threats to our military and there are threats to defense contractors," CNAS Vice President and Director of Studies Kristin Lord told Federal News Radio. "But what I think I would underscore is the threat to the broader range of American companies that are targeted in cyber attacks."

Computer hackers launch about 1.8 billion attacks on federal networks each month, according to CNAS.

The new office "should remain small and nimble, maintain close links to the National Security Council (NSC) and National Economic Council, and avoid duplicating functions already performed by other agencies," researchers wrote in the CNAS report.

The center also recommended that the Department of Homeland Security improve its capacity for risk assessment and incident response.

"Congress should pass legislation that creates a new quasi-governmental 'fusion' center to improve information sharing, clarifies DHS's legal authority to monitor U.S. government networks, enables Internet service providers to better cooperate with the U.S. government, and bolsters cybersecurity education and recruitment programs," according to CNAS.

The CNAS report followed a May 12 White House legislative proposal for improving cybersecurity.

The proposal gives DHS oversight of federal civilian networks and includes measures for encouraging industry to work with the federal government on cybersecurity. It also focuses on protecting key critical infrastructure, such as the electric grid.

"What I liked about it is that it addressed the more military aspect of cybersecurity," Lord said. "But it also really addressed the issues of protecting intellectual property ... the issues of keeping cyberspace open and interoperable."

Hackers are slowly sapping American power by stealing intellectual property, Lord said.

"Some companies simply aren't aware of the extent to which they're losing intellectual property," she said. "The second issue is that they're very reluctant to talk about it in public, so it's hard for companies to realize the extent of the threat and therefore to justify an investment in cybersecurity to their boards."

Lord believes companies worry the government will not protect their information if they disclose breaches to federal authorities.

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily Cybersecurity Update brought to you by Tripwire. For more cybersecurity news, click here.