In an interview with MITechNews.Com Editor & Publisher Mike Brennan, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration Teresa M. Takai explains a little about the challenges the Department of Defense faces in administering information systems securely.
"I advise Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as well as senior staff on how we should be spending $37 billion a year on IT... We’re responsible for everything up to where the information is shared. We manage the Department’s use of the spectrum. We are responsible for technologies that read out to the battlefield and for those individuals dealing with technology in the theater. So my responsibilities are more operational," Takai explained.
The Pentagon is involved not only in national and international security initiatives, but also works closely with the private sector on the development of new and cutting edge technologies, information that could prove to be crucial in the nation's defense, making the defense of that information critical.
“At the DOD, we deal with all aspects of cyber security. How to defend all our information. We have a lot of R&D to protect. There are those who want to get in and maliciously disable or damage or change information. We’re so heavily dependent on our network for a national security role," Takai said.
From an information security standpoint, the DoD's networks are under constant attack, and that fact requires the infosec teams to exercise the utmost in due diligence, especially in the face of more sophisticated intrusion operations.
“The whole question of advanced persistent threats and the kinds of threat we face at the Department is something we’re very focused on. Cyber is a domain much like air, sea and space that we have to be prepared to defend,” said Takai.
In addition to advising Secretary Panetta, Takai also works closely Keith B. Alexander, who oversees the United States Cyber Command (USCyberCom) as well as being the acting director of the National Security Agency.
“One way to describe cyber command is we have regional combatant commands, such as the Pacific Region, who understands the Pacific region. When you compare that to CyberCom, they have the unique understanding of cyber space and they have the responsibility to take actions, and advise the Defense Secretary on all cyber activities. CyberCom protects the Department and is responsible for directing activities as they relate to cyber security," Takai said.
Takai would not comment on specific legislation before Congress, such as the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), but did emphasize the need to better protect the nation's critical assets.
“We are supportive of the president’s agenda and do feel this legislative action is important going forward. Based on what we see at the Defense Department, there needs to be more action to protect our critical infrastructure. There are both military and civilians aspects to this,” says Takai.
On the future of information security at the DoD, Takai states that it is an ongoing evolutionary process, and acknowledged the need for more and better trained infosec personnel.
“We think we’ll have to grow in a couple ways at the Department of Defense. We plan to train our entire workface to be cognoscente of the cyber threats and we need more specialists to monitor and defend our networks."