Monday, January 11, 2010

Keeping a Step Ahead of the Virtual Enemy

Asked what worries him the most about safeguarding government IT systems, Philip Reitinger demurs. "It's not a question of what worries me most; it is a question of the opportunities we have got," Deputy Undersecretary Reitinger, the top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, said in an interview with (transcript below).

"We are connecting more and more systems, creating an increasingly complicated environment," Reitinger said. "The attackers are getting better and better and we are depending more on those systems from day to day to make sure that our very way of life can continue, that the ways we work and play will continue and we will be able to be successful."

Reitinger maintains the government's cyber defenses are getting better. "We need to continue to improve because the hackers and the bad guys have continued to improve and there are a lot of areas for improvement, but we are making significant efforts to do so," he said.

In the first of a two-part interview, Reitinger concedes the challenge will be tough because of a dearth of qualified information security experts, but explains steps the government is taking to eventually eliminate that skills gap. Also, Reitinger addresses:

•The need to develop innovative, collaborative approaches, not only among federal agencies, but between the government and the private sector to meet the human resources needs to safeguard government systems.

•How much risk the government faces by not having a sufficient number of cybersecurity professionals.

•Why, even when the government didn't have a permanent cybersecurity coordinator, the White House addressed the government's information security needs. govinfosecurity

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