New DHS Cyber Center Meets with Industry to ID Most Valuable Assets

Mark J. Terrill/AP File Photo

DHS officials met Thursday with officials from the communications, electricity and finance sectors.

Officials from the Homeland Security Department’s new long-range cyber planning division met Thursday with cyber leaders from three key industry sectors to learn how they go about identifying their digital crown jewels that require the highest levels of protection.

The meeting with officials from the communications, electricity and finance sectors will be followed by meetings with the other 13 critical infrastructure sectors in coming weeks, Mark Kneidinger, deputy director of Homeland Security’s National Risk Management Center told reporters after speaking before a Commerce Department advisory board.

Based on those meetings, risk management center officials will work with industry on future steps for how to both identify and protect the nation’s most vital digital assets, Kneidinger said.

The effort is part of a broader government effort to shift from protecting all digital systems equally to applying extra protections to systems that hold more important information or that are more likely to be targeted by cyber criminals or nation-state adversaries.

The high-value assets project is one of several “sprints” the risk management center has launched since it was announced by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a cyber conference in July, Kneidinger said.

Other sprints focus on securing industry supply chains and securing oil and natural gas pipelines, among other topics, he said.

More details about the center’s work will be announced at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce cybersecurity conference Nov. 16, he said.

Homeland Security officials have described the risk management center as focused on longer-range cyber priorities and broader cyber strategy. That’s in contrast to the department’s operational cyber wing, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, or NCCIC, which deals in fast-paced cyber operations, such as responding to cyber incidents, and is necessarily shorter term in its thinking.

The risk management center is currently staffed with about 115 employees from Homeland Security’s Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis plus about 40 detailees from elsewhere in Homeland Security, Kneidinger said. The center may add additional staff based on expertise gaps that it identifies once more programs are up and running, he said.