Rooting Out Insider Threats Among DHS’ Top Priorities, Execs Say

By Stew Magnuson

The Department of Homeland Security’s information technology needs in 2014 will be driven by trends such as big data analytics, the ubiquity of mobile devices and a new emphasis on finding insider threats, executives who work closely with DHS say.

Cloud computing, social media and the need for more cybersecurity are other trends that will fuel IT acquisition in the department, said Tony Celeste, director of U.S. civilian agencies at Brocade, which provides network services.

The department needs to take advantage of these trends in a time when its budgets are being scrutinized heavily, he said.

Like the Defense Department, DHS is in the process of consolidating data centers to save funding and create efficiencies.

It’s new Data Center 1 and Data Center 2 complexes are intended to provide services to the 22 component agencies.

“Not all 22 are taking advantage of this, but they are rapidly starting to adapt and move applications into this world instead of doing their own,” Celeste said.

The relatively new department brought networks from its almost two dozen legacy agencies into the mix, and work will continue at making them more efficient, he said.

Market research the company has carried out shows that 79 percent of federal IT managers believe that forces such as thin-client mobile devices, cloud computing and cybersecurity needs will place larger burdens on their networks. An almost equal percentage of respondents said they don’t have the capacity to handle it, Celeste said.

“The traditional networking infrastructure with its hierarchies are not capable of supporting today’s requirements and future requirements that are going to be placed on the network,” he said.

Brocade is offering two products, ethernet fabric and software defined networks that are intended to “flatten out networks” so they are less dependant on hardware such as switches, routers and controllers.

Paul Christman, vice president of public sector at Dell Software, said his DHS customers are telling him that they are concerned about insider threats in the wake of the Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning cases.

Big data analytics and social media will be used for a more holistic approach to finding data leaks, he said. It is not only cyberespionage being conducted by foreign intelligence services, but rogue insiders, that will drive IT security trends in 2014, he predicted.

There will be an emphasis on behaviors of individuals rather than enforcing policies, he said.

That may mean DHS watching the Internet habits of its employees both at work and in their private lives, and on nongovernment issued mobile devices.

This is raising a host of policy and privacy issues within DHS that leaders are tackling now, he said.

“I think they are on the right path,” he said.

The idea is to look at these habits and predict and possibly prevent the next data leak, he said. Employees who have high-level security clearances do have to submit to a certain amount of scrutiny into their personal lives, he noted.

Celeste added that mobility will require more encryption “on the edge,” meaning in devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Everything from cars to televisions are being hooked up to the Internet, he noted.

“That dependency is a risk from a security standpoint,” he added.

Topics: Homeland Security, DHS Policy

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