Homeland Security budget boosts cybersecurity

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Information security could get greater focus now that the House budget bill calls for creating a high-level cybersecurity position at the Homeland Security Department.

DHS would get $34.2 billion in fiscal 2006 as the result of a bill that received almost unanimous approval in the House last week. It is the department's first complete reauthorization since the Homeland Security Act creating DHS was passed in 2002.

By a vote of 424-4, House members approved a bill that, among other things, provides support for information sharing within DHS and with other federal, state and local agencies. It would accelerate the development of new technologies and aggressively recruit new talent.

A groundbreaking element in the bill makes cybersecurity a greater priority for the government. It would create an assistant secretary for cybersecurity in the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate. The person in that position would replace the current director of the National Cybersecurity Division and would oversee that division and the National Communications System.

The promotion of the cybersecurity chief is a "significant step forward to properly address the cybersecurity challenges of the nation," said Amit Yoran, former director of DHS' National Cybersecurity Division and founder of Yoran Associates, a consulting group.

"The new cybersecurity chief's greatest impact can be to better integrate cyber programs and thinking about cybersecurity across the department's initiatives," he said.

The next critical step for the new assistant secretary and the department is refining DHS' cybersecurity mission, Yoran said. They must target specific programs to reach those objectives and make sure those actions are accomplished, Yoran added.

Establishing better communication within the government and with and among the private sector, which owns nearly 90% of the nation's critical infrastructure, will be crucial for success, Yoran said.

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