“For years there has been confusion about who does what when hackers hit the homeland. Not anymore.
Justice Department is squarely in charge of responding to cyberthreats against the United States, under a presidential directive issued Tuesday.
At the same time, the Homeland Security Department will immediately help agencies and companies, if requested, stanch the bleeding from a hacker assault on networks, or “assets,” President Barack Obama said.
Justice will take the lead in “threat response” or investigating a system attack on site, identifying the perpetrator and breaking up attack operations because foreign adversaries often are involved.
“In view of the fact that significant cyberincidents will often involve at least the possibility of a nation-state actor or have some other national security nexus, the Department of Justice, acting through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, shall be the federal lead agency for threat response activities,” the directive states.
The latest data breach pinned on a foreign country, this time Russia, leaked Democratic National Committee emails in what some foreign policy experts say was a ploy to influence the presidential elections or the next administration’s policies.
“This presidential policy directive sets forth principles governing the federal government’s response to any cyber incident, whether involving government or private sector entities,” Obama says in the rules signed July 26.
In a Tuesday statement, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged: ”I am often asked ‘who’s responsible within the federal government for cybersecurity? Who in the government do I contact in the event of a cyberincident?’”
Now, the so-called U.S. Cyber Incident Coordination presidential directive “clarifies the answer to these questions,” Johnson added.
DHS’ role is providing technological help and figuring out what other organizations might be at risk, among other things.
Johnson explained asset response “involves helping the victim find the bad actor on its system, repair its system, patching the vulnerability, reducing the risks of future incidents, and preventing the incident from spreading to others.”
In addition, DHS and Justice will produce “a fact sheet” with instructions on how private individuals and organizations can contact relevant agencies about a hack attack.
The director of national intelligence’s job will be to assist in aggregating analysis of threat trends, along with helping “to degrade or mitigate adversary threat capabilities.”
The military will be responsible for dealing with threats against its own Department of Defense Information Network. Likewise, theDNI will handle incidents that impact the intelligence communityIT environment.
First Things First
Whichever federal agency first learns of a cyberincident “will rapidly notify other relevant federal agencies in order to facilitate a unified federal response and ensure that the right combination of agencies responds to a particular incident,” the directive says.
Obama expects DHS to write, within the first month of the next administration, what he is calling a “National Cyber Incident Response Plan” that addresses attacks against private-sector networks.”