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DHS Cyber Official: Industry Response to Cyber Proposal is ‘Mixed Bag’

Bruce McConnell, DHS; Photo: DHS.gov

Last month, the White House issued a proposed cybersecurity bill that would give the Department of Homeland Security greater authority to protect federal civilian computer networks.

Even so, one of that agency’s top cyber officials said recently the cyber realm still lacks a cop on the beat.

“The sheriff hasn’t actually showed up in cyberspace,” said Bruce McConnell, senior counselor of DHS’ National Protection and Programs Directorate, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s tricky because cyberspace is privately owned and operated,” McConnell added. “There are issues involving government getting more involved in it because it involves the transmission and handling of information that may be proprietary or personal. So part of what we’re focusing on in Washington is trying to get that role of the government right.”

DHS is now focused on helping assist the private sector protect itself from cyber threats. “We have some things going now that might have a little more active role for the government, but that’s a work in progress at this point,” he acknowledged.

McConnell said currently the agency is working on an experimental program to provide defense companies with comparable levels of security as military networks.

Also, on the table is the legislative proposal, currently being considered by Congress, that would allow DHS to essentially set cybersecurity guidelines for the private sector.

“The private sector’s response to the legislative proposal is a mixed bag,” McConnell said, “because on the one hand it does kind of set a level playing field, but it also adds an additional government intervention in the market.”

While the specter of government intrusion into Internet security is ripe for conspiracists, McConnell suggested the private sector, left to its own devices, simply hasn’t done enough.

“Our view is that we’ve been trying to get the market to solve cybersecurity for years, and we don’t want to repeat the definition of insanity, which is continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome,” he said. “So, we are taking a little bit more aggressive approach.”

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