DHS program to monitor all networks by fall 2016

DHS program to monitor all networks by fall 2016

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) network monitoring program will fully cover the federal government by the end of the 2016 fiscal year, an agency official told Congress on Wednesday.

Just over half of government networks are currently using the DHS’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program, said Andy Ozment, assistant secretary of the DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communication.

CDM is meant to help agencies identify malicious actors within their networks. It's a much-needed tool, as foreign hackers have repeatedly infiltrated government networks this past year.

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“You can only grow so fast,” Ozment told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. “Personnel is probably the biggest single holdup.”

For years, DHS has spearheaded efforts to strengthen the federal government’s civilian networks.

The department's approach has been two-pronged, Ozment explained.

First, the Einstein program was rolled out starting over a decade ago to strengthen perimeter defenses. The idea was to thwart hackers before they even enter the system. Eighty to 90 percent of the civilian government is now covered by initial versions of Einstein, he said.

Next, the department focused on CDM, an effort to better detect hackers once they’re already inside.

Repeated breaches over the last year at agencies from the United States Postal Service to the State Department to the White House have raised questions about the effectiveness of those efforts.

Ozment acknowledged DHS has not yet “scaled to the level commensurate” with the cyber threat.

“Growing an organization rapidly is difficult,” he said.

DHS officials have also said previously that ongoing budget uncertainty at the agency has pushed back timelines for these programs.  

But Ozment believes the department has the necessary funds and just needs time.

“We think we’re in good shape,” he said.