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US Homeland Security boss wants nationwide law for reporting network break-ins

Plans to unleash Einstein IDS on all government departments

Politicians need to educate themselves about technology and enact new legislation to strengthen America's computer networks against attack, according to the director of US Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

Speaking at a conference organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Johnson said that top of his wish list was a US-wide data breach reporting law: this law would replace the hodgepodge of individual state laws, and required organizations to report computer security attacks to Uncle Sam. It would also bring in tougher penalties for criminal hackers.

"Key to cybersecurity is information sharing," he said. "It's key even among the most sophisticated actors – you can't be out there alone, and should partner with the federal government."

Johnson was firm, however, that the best way to stop successful hacking attacks is education. He said that even the most sophisticated attack usually starts with one worker getting an email that they shouldn’t have clicked on if they'd been properly trained.

He also wanted to get the US government's IT acquisition budget more targeted on security systems that worked. Simply picking the largest supplier was foolish, since smaller, leaner firms often had better products.

Johnson also wants to extend the use of the Einstein intrusion detection system, developed by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) in 2004. The software is now on its third iteration and Johnson said that he wanted to encourage all federal departments to use the software.

"With the use of Einstein E3A, agencies could clean up 60 per cent of vulnerabilities in a very short period of time," he said.

Ultimately, attacks would always happen, and some of them would succeed, he said, but that the key to minimizing harm was sharing information, smart planning, having the best tools, and a little resilience.

"Terrorism can't prevail if people refuse to be terrorized," Johnson opined. "Americans come back even stronger from these things; that’s part of who we are as Americans." ®

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