DHS Aims to ID Critical Functions to Protect from Cyberattacks by Year’s End

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After the Homeland Security Department identifies the critical functions, it plans to map out all their dependencies.

The Homeland Security Department hopes to complete before the end of this year a list of the nation’s most vital functions that must be protected against cyberattacks, the department’s top cyber official said Friday.

Once those “critical functions” are identified, Homeland Security will work with federal research facilities and other organizations to map out which of those functions are most vital and how they rely on each other, said Chris Krebs, director of Homeland Security’s newly authorized Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.  

The broad goal for that mapping process is to identify which sectors rely most heavily on a critical function and what the chain reaction would be if a function was compromised by a cyberattack, said Bob Kolasky, a Homeland Security official who’s leading the identification and mapping process.

Kolasky cited the Global Positioning System as an example.

Some sectors could continue functioning if GPS was compromised for a short period of time or had limited accuracy, Kolasky said. Other sectors, such as the financial sector, which relies on GPS to pinpoint when securities trades happen, need 100 percent accuracy.

The mapping process will likely begin with the telecommunications, energy and finance sectors and other critical infrastructure sectors that are at greatest risks of enemy cyberattacks, Krebs said.

Krebs and Kolasky spoke with reporters on the sidelines of a cybersecurity summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The identification and mapping of critical functions is a project of Homeland Security’s National Risk Management Center, which the department launched at a conference in New York in July with Kolasky as its leader.

The goal is for the center to tackle longer-range cyber problems that are out of scope for Homeland Security’s cyber operations division.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials described the Chamber of Commerce event Friday as a sort of three-month status check on the center’s work.

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