GAO Says Protecting Critical Infrastructure Requires Urgent Action from DHS
Wednesday, April 06, 2022 | Comments

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that urgent action from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is necessary to help protect critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

These actions were highlighted in comments Tina Won Sherman, director, Homeland Security and Justice for GAO, made to the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection of the Innovation Committee on Homeland Security.

The GAO noted that most critical infrastructure is privately owned so it said that it’s important the public and private sectors work together. For example, the GAO recommended ways that the DHS could better lead federal coordination with private industry stakeholders.

The GAO said there are two key ways that the DHS can better protect critical infrastructure: strengthen the federal role in protecting the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure and improving priority setting efforts.

On the first factor, the GAO noted that the goal of the 2018 creation of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within DHS was to create an organization responsible for enhancing the security of the nation’s critical infrastructure against both physical and cyber threats.

Last March, the GAO said that the DHS needed to take several steps to finalize the transformation of CISA, including finalizing the agencies mission-critical functions and completing workforce planning activities. At that time, GAO made 11 recommendations, and DHS plans to finish implementing those by the end of 2022.

On the second component, the GAO noted that through the National Critical Infrastructure Prioritization Program, CISA is set to identify a list of systems and assets that, if destroyed or disrupted, would cause national or regional catastrophic effects. In March, the GAO found in a report that CISA and other critical infrastructure stakeholders that it spoke with said that the program was of little use and raised concerns about it. At the time, GAO made recommendations to help address those issues and make the program more useful. DHS agreed with the recommendations.

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