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DHS Advances Einstein Cybersecurity Deployment

The Department of Homeland Security plans to hire IT experts who can support Einstein and other security technologies.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is making progress on the deployment of its Einstein next-generation cybersecurity system and plans to bolster its IT staff with experts who can support it and other security technologies, a department official told the Senate this week.

Einstein 2 has already been deployed at 15 of 19 large departments and agencies that maintain their own locations for the Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) initiative, which reduces the number of external connections the federal network has to the Internet to improve security, said Sean McGurk, director of the Control Systems Security Program in the DHS National Cyber Security Division (NCSD).

McGurk testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations Wednesday about the current cybersecurity threat to the U.S, which he described as dire.

Last year, Einstein 2 sensors registered a total of 5.4 million hits--or alerts triggered by detection of a known security threat--at an average of 450,000 hits per month or nearly 15,000 hits per day, McGurk said. These numbers are indicative of the kind of security threat the federal network currently must be protected against.

"We face persistent, unauthorized, and often unattributed intrusions into federal executive branch civilian networks," McGurk said. "These intruders span a spectrum of malicious actors, including nation states, terrorist networks, organized criminal groups, or individuals located here in the United States. They have varying levels of access and technical sophistication, but all have nefarious intent."

Einstein is a multi-phase project to install an early-warning intrusion prevention and detection system. As it rolls out Einstein 2, the DHS also simultaneously is testing its next phase, Einstein 3, which will enable it to automatically detect and disrupt malicious activity before it harms critical networks and systems.

On Monday, another DHS official--Phil Reitinger, deputy under secretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate--told the same committee that the Obama administration's recent cybersecurity legislative proposal should give the department more authority to advance its work on Einstein significantly. The proposal will give the DHS more autonomy to act on behalf of the federal government on cybersecurity matters.

To support Einstein and other cybersecurity plans, the DHS needs more qualified professionals, and is prepared to hire them, McGurk said. The NCSD currently has more than 230 cybersecurity experts on staff and has "dozens more in the hiring pipeline," he said.

To ensure there are qualified cybersecurity experts in the job market for hire, the DHS is working with other agencies on educational initiatives. For instance, the department has co-sponsored with the National Security Agency the Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and Research programs, the goal of which is to produce more professionals with IT expertise in various disciplines, he said.

In this new Tech Center report, we profile five database breaches--and extract the lessons to be learned from each. Plus: A rundown of six technologies to reduce your risk. Download it here (registration required).

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