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DHS Drafts Blueprints for Self-Repairing Networks as Hacks Mount

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The Department of Homeland Security is working with industry to automate cyber defenses inside the government, which will ensure operations continue during and after hack attacks, DHS officials said Wednesday. 

Enterprise Automated Security Environment, or EASE, could give rise to something like a self-repairing network, Philip Quade, chief operating officer of National Security Agency's information assurance directorate, told Nextgov last week.  

Hacks are inevitable, many security professionals say. Resiliency is the key to preventing the attackers from finding sensitive information or disrupting activities, they add.

Agencies, for now, still struggle to quickly recover from potential hacks. In recent weeks, the White House, U.S. Postal Service and National Weather Service suffered data breaches that temporarily forced them to shut down communications.

The Homeland Security effort is in the very early stages and would supplement the agency's ongoing $6 billion network surveillance program. That initiative, called “continuous diagnostics and mitigation,” focuses on real-time monitoring of all federal networks for threats. 

Industry players in the near future should receive a request for information seeking input on how the self-healing model might pan out, department officials said.  "Homeland Security is leading its development, in coordination with private sector partners, as part of a long-term effort to strengthen existing cyber defense capabilities through better interoperability and shared situational awareness, real-time response, and the protection of privacy, civil rights and civil liberties,” DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee said in an email.

The department recently announced it intends to proactively scan civilian agency networks for vulnerabilities and intrusions. 

"EASE is an evolving concept aimed at further automating the detection and prevention of cyber intrusions against federal government networks by creating a suite of technologies to augment existing methods," Lee said.

Homeland Security officials stressed that EASE is not yet an entity, system or program, but rather an idea. And they said it won't replace any existing cyber programs. 

(Image via Lightspring/Shutterstock.com)

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