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DHS readies next CDM task orders

Jun. 12, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By RUTRELL YASIN   |   Comments
FED cybersecurity MWM 20140611
John Streufert: DHS is readying a new round of CDM orders. (Mike Morones/Staff)

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The Department of Homeland Security is gearing up to issue new task orders for its Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program, ensuring that more agencies can obtain the necessary tools to improve the security and resilience of their networks.

The contracts will supply solutions under competitive task orders for 23 agencies within the next 20 weeks, according to John Streufert, director of Federal Network Resilience, the division within DHS taking the lead in the CDM effort.

There will be six competitive task orders where departments and agencies are grouped according to their requirements. “Some agencies are adding to a strong baseline of existing continuous diagnostic mitigation tools, some have a patch-work quilt of tools and some have zero protection,” Streufert said.

The first task order, which was awarded in January 2014 to four companies, supplied CDM tools for 19 agencies, Streufert said June 11, speaking during a federal cybersecurity seminar presented by Federal Times and C4ISR and Networks, and sponsored by DLT Solutions in Arlington, Virginia.

Last year, DHS awarded contracts to 17 technology and defense contractors, valued at $6 billion over five years, to provide CDM tools and services to government agencies. Actual awarding of the contracts will be based on whether or not the 17 contractors partner or decide to work on their own, he said.

The CDM Program is comprehensive, adhering to the cyber security framework and security controls detailed in The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Special Publication 800-53. As a result, the first phase of CDM has focused on the risks associated with devices connected to government networks; phase two will focus on managing privileges and perimeter devices; and the final phase will focus on what threats remain on government networks with a view toward managing events, Streufert said.

A report, Raising the Bar for Cyber Security, released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that CDM and other continuous monitoring programs across government could stop 85 percent of the cyberattacks by searching for, finding, fixing, and reporting on the worst cyber security problems, Streufert noted. Plus, agencies could respond to problems at network speed,

The problem, though, is every three days there are trillions of cyber events aimed at the perimeters of government networks, millions of attacks occur at network speed, and hundreds of attack succeed, he noted. Every three months US CERT records 2,000 successful attacks. Plus terabytes of data are stolen and agencies are burdened by manually oriented processes.

The problems are piling up faster than agencies can document them. This is a clear indication that government needs to work toward a combination of automation and dashboards as well as the deployment of other security tools, he said.

Under the CDM Program, agencies will implement automated network sensors and have the ability to prioritize risk alerts. An integral part of the program is the development of agency-level dashboards that will generate reports that alert IT managers about the most critical cyber risks. Summary information from agencies will be fed into a Federal-level dashboard managed by DHS. The multi-tiered architecture of the dashboard is now being put into place, Streufert said.

In March, DHS awarded a $47 million contract to Metrica Team Venture to design and implement a federal-level dashboard that will provide summary data on network security across civilian agencies. In August, DHS will communicate with civilian government about dashboard design, aiming for operation capability in early 2015, he said

“So think of continuous monitoring as a service contract for putting subject matter experts and sensors in position. But none of it will be worth the trip unless the data from those sensors can be gathered together at the agency level and civilian government level for meaningful conclusions,” Streufert said.

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Rutrell Yasin is a freelance writer based in Virginia.

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