DHS cybersecurity program remains underutilized

Government bodies at every level have a powerful incentive to improve the quality of their cybersecurity efforts. As countless recent events have demonstrated, hackers and other cyberattackers are eager leverage sensitive data housed by the federal, state and local governments, and they are constantly developing new tactics access this information. Government agencies need to be proactive to fend off such strikes.

While further progress remains necessary, the federal government has made significant strides in this area. However, state and local governments tend to lack the resources to fully pursue cybersecurity initiatives to the same degree. In an effort to remedy this situation, President Obama directed the Department of Homeland Security to develop a project aimed at sharing threat information with state and local agencies. Unfortunately, as Government Technology reported, relatively few eligible agencies have taken advantage of this initiative.

An untapped resource
The source noted that the DHS program is designed to share both classified and unclassified cybersecurity-related information with participating state and local governments, along with 14 other sectors deemed to be "critical infrastructure."  Previously, this program was only made available to federal defense contractors.

Yet as Government Technology reported, this program, while potentially very useful, has gone largely unused. In fact, it is in many cases unknown. The news source noted that it contacted three state chief information security officers to ask them for their thoughts about the DHS Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program, and none of the three were familiar with the project. 

"We would definitely be interested in more information as we are always looking for more avenues for information exchange that will further our cyber intelligence program," said one of the CISOs, the news source reported.

Cybersecurity obstacles
The source noted that a recent federal report concerning this program pointed to a lack of outreach and limited resources as the key factors preventing greater enrollment. 

However, Alan Paller, director of research for a cybersecurity research and training organization, argued that a bigger issue is the simple fact that the state and local governments do not have the resources to effectively utilize the information offered by the DHS program.

This highlights the need for government agencies at every level to work closely with third-party cybersecurity firms. Only by seeking out external expertise and guidance can these organizations effectively protect themselves from the growing threat posed by an evolving hacker community. 

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