Critical Infrastructure Protection: Department of Homeland Security Faces Challenges in Fulfilling Cybersecurity Responsibilities: GAO-05-434

Powner, David A.
May 2005
GAO Reports;5/26/2005, p1
Government Documents
Increasing computer interconnectivity has revolutionized the way that our government, our nation, and much of the world communicate and conduct business. While the benefits have been enormous, this widespread interconnectivity also poses significant risks to our nation's computer systems and, more importantly, to the critical operations and infrastructures they support. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 and federal policy established DHS as the focal point for coordinating activities to protect the computer systems that support our nation's critical infrastructures. GAO was asked to determine (1) DHS's roles and responsibilities for cyber critical infrastructure protection, (2) the status and adequacy of DHS's efforts to fulfill these responsibilities, and (3) the challenges DHS faces in fulfilling its cybersecurity responsibilities. As the focal point for critical infrastructure protection (CIP), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has many cybersecurity-related roles and responsibilities that we identified in law and policy. DHS established the National Cyber Security Division to take the lead in addressing the cybersecurity of critical infrastructures. While DHS has initiated multiple efforts to fulfill its responsibilities, it has not fully addressed any of the 13 responsibilities, and much work remains ahead. For example, the department established the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team as a public/private partnership to make cybersecurity a coordinated national effort, and it established forums to build greater trust and information sharing among federal officials with information security responsibilities and law enforcement entities. However, DHS has not yet developed national cyber threat and vulnerability assessments or government/industry contingency recovery plans for cybersecurity, including a plan for recovering key Internet functions. DHS faces a number of challenges that have impeded its ability to fulfill its cyber CIP responsibilities. These key challenges include achieving organizational stability, gaining organizational authority, overcoming hiring and contracting issues, increasing awareness about cybersecurity roles and capabilities, establishing effective partnerships with stakeholders, achieving two-way information sharing with these stakeholders, and demonstrating the value DHS can provide. In its strategic plan for cybersecurity, DHS identifies steps that can begin to address the challenges. However, until it confronts and resolves these underlying challenges and implements its plans, DHS will have difficulty achieving significant results in strengthening the cybersecurity of our critical infrastructures.


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