WASHINGTON – Earlier today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, took to the Senate floor to highlight the work of the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) that operates within the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC).
His speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
“Mr. President, earlier this week, the Partnership for Public Service released its annual report ranking the best places to work in the federal government. The report is based on surveys conducted by hundreds of thousands of federal workers. This year, it showed an increase in overall employee morale for the first time in four years.
“Despite the progress that appears to have been made in many federal agencies, many components of the Department of Homeland Security continue to struggle to make its employees feel good about where they work and what they do.
“I know that Secretary Johnson and his team are taking significant steps to make the Department a better place to work for current and future employees. But Congress also has a responsibility to help improve morale at DHS.
“Considering the fact that we began 2015 with a fight in this body over whether or not we should even fund the Department, I don’t believe we are doing all that we can. That is why I have come down to the Senate floor on several occasions throughout the year to highlight some of the extraordinary work being done every day by the dedicated men and women at the Department of Homeland Security.
“Today, I rise to recognize no one individual, but a whole team of people for the important work they do every day to defend our nation from the growing and evolving threats our country faces in cyberspace.
“It seems like we can’t go a week without hearing about another major breach at a business or government agency. These past few years, we’ve seen major attacks on the Office of Personnel Management, Sony, a number of major banks, and even the email of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. These attacks make clear that the threats we face online are complex and we’ll be struggling with how to deal with them for the foreseeable future.
“Fortunately, here in Congress we have been making some progress combatting these cyber threats through legislation. Last year, we passed four cybersecurity bills aimed at strengthening the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to perform its cybersecurity missions.
“Among those bills was one to update how the government protects its own networks. This bill included language clarifying the role the Department plays in overseeing and enhancing security at other agencies. Two other bills gave the Department some of the tools it needs to strengthen its cybersecurity workforce. Just last month, DHS announced that it would hire up to 1,000 new cybersecurity employees in the next six months using the new authorities we gave them.
“We also passed a bill that codified the cyber operations center at the Department, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. Also known as the NCCIC. This bill gave the NCCIC the strong legal foundation it needs to do its job and engage with the private sector in a joint effort to better secure critical cyber networks.
“We have made great progress on cybersecurity legislation this year, as well. The Senate has passed a bill to increase information sharing and collaboration on cybersecurity issues. In that bill, DHS plays a central role as the interface between industry and the government. The bill also includes provisions to enhance the cybersecurity program at DHS known as EINSTEIN, which uses classified threat intelligence to protect all of our civilian agencies.
“I’m mentioning all of this legislation to show the critical role that DHS plays in cybersecurity for our country. And at the center of DHS’s cybersecurity operations is the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team – also known as US-CERT.
“To my left is a picture of President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson addressing the employees at US-CERT. US-CERT is the main operational team at the NCCIC and it works as the hub of the Department’s cyber security efforts. It pools information and shares that information throughout the federal government, with its partners in the private sector across the country, and with our allies around the world.
“Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, these men and women work to keep us ahead of bad actors who are trying to steal our personal information, hurt our economy, or damage critical infrastructure like our electric grid and financial systems.
“US-CERT was established in 2003 as the Department of Homeland Security was first being stood up. The mission of US-CERT is simple: to make the Internet a safer place for everyone by helping to improve cybersecurity across the country. To do this, US-CERT operates a wide variety of programs. These include several information sharing and collaboration programs; incident response teams that provide on-site assistance to attack victims; programs like the EINSTEIN intrusion detection and prevention system to protect federal agencies; education and awareness programs; and deeply technical forensic analysis. US-CERT partners with a wide variety of organizations, including power plants, banks, software companies, researchers, CERT team in other countries, and other cyber centers like those at the NSA and FBI.
“When a major cyber attack occurs in the federal government or private sector, the men and women at US-CERT mobilize to travel to the victim’s location. They help mitigate the attack, strengthen the victim’s cyber systems, and then communicate with their partners so everyone can secure their systems against similar attacks.
“Earlier this year, when the Office of Personnel Management discovered a data breach affecting personnel data belonging to millions of federal employees, they called the NCCIC and asked for its team of experts. US-CERT played a central role in investigating and responding to the breach. For the next four months, a team worked around the clock at OPM to assess and monitor federal networks and develop new protections against the type of intrusion that OPM experienced.
“Once US-CERT realized that other federal agencies were also vulnerable to this type of breach, they immediately shared the indicators of the attack with network analysts across the federal government. This allowed other federal agencies to scan their systems and make sure they had not been compromised by the same hacker.
“Because of the scale and impact of the OPM breach, the US CERT team worked long hours to make sure they could provide guidance to federal agencies as quickly as possible so they could better protect their networks from similar attacks and prevent the attacker from using the information they obtained against us. Their work not only strengthened OPM’s cybersecurity posture, but also bolstered cybersecurity across the entire federal government.
“US-CERT and all of the cyber warriors at the NCCIC work tirelessly every day to out-think and out-innovate our cyber enemies. The legislation we enacted last year and the bill we are working hard to send to the President now puts DHS in the spotlight and entrusts them with great responsibility for years to come. We in Congress recognize the critical role the US-CERT plays in strengthening our nation’s cybersecurity. And we must continue to support these hard wording men and women in their mission.
“So today, Mr. President, I say ‘thank you’ to the men and women of our US-CERT team at DHS for helping keep us safe in cyber space.”