DHS Leader Describes Partnership With Michigan

January 11, 2010
By Henry Kenyon

During an interview with Rear Adm. Michael A Brown, USN, last week, the admiral clarified the first-of-its-kind cybersecurity partnership with the state of Michigan. The state is deploying EINSTEIN 1, an automated process the US-CERT developed to collect, correlate, analyze and share computer security information across the federal government.

Adm. Brown, who is the deputy assistant secretary for cyber security and communications, DHS, explained that the goal of the DHS-Michigan partnership was to create a structure that enables information sharing and analysis at DHS with the state and local government levels. "The rationale for going down this proof-of-concept road is to build increased situational awareness and information sharing and to take them to the next level," he said.

The department has been working with the Michigan government for some time. When DHS decided to conduct this proof of concept, this relationship lent itself to the ability to quickly assess information sharing at multiple government levels. The state's leaders have been critical members of DHS' State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Government Coordinating Council, the admiral explained.

The goal of the partnership was to demonstrate that a state could share information with the US-CERT and vice versa. Developing this relationship is enabling the federal government to understand the cyberthreats to computer networks and allows DHS to acquire additional situational awareness of the status of computer systems across state and local governments, Adm. Brown related.

Creating the partnership required DHS and the state to tackle policy and legal issues as well as focus on privacy and civil liberties. From the beginning, these items had to be laid out in detail-and there were a lot of details, the admiral admits. On the plus side, now that this framework has been developed, it will be easier to work on a one-on-one basis with other states, he added.

"Technology is not the issue. It's all what I call the 'soft stuff': the policy and the legal issues. And that soft stuff is the hard stuff when you're doing all of the things we've been talking about today," Adm. Brown said.

From the beginning of the proof of concept, DHS didn't plan to expand the initiative to additional states. Instead, the goal was to determine the policies and procedures for sharing information between a state and the federal government.

The admiral added that DHS has a great relationship with many individual states through the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the communications vehicle to keep in touch with the states and territories. Other states also can purchase capabilities similar to EINSTEIN 1, he explained.

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