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Homeland Security

15 September 2003

Expanding Partnership Enhances U.S. Cybersecurity Efforts

Homeland Security joins longstanding watchdog agency

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center are forming a partnership to enhance the nation's capabilities to prevent and respond to cyber attacks on the Internet.

CERT is an Internet watchdog agency formed in 1988, working today to alert U.S. industry and private computer users about real and potential threats to online security. The center has been an important player in coordinating responses to all the major virus and worm threats that have plagued the Internet in recent years.

"The recent cyber attacks such as the Blaster worm and the SoBig virus highlight the urgent need for an enhanced computer emergency response program that coordinates national efforts to cyber incidents and attacks," DHS Secretary Tom Ridge said in a press release issued by the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, the parent agency of CERT.

CERT and the National Cyber Security Division within DHS will form US-CERT, which will expand to include partnerships with private sector security vendors, domestic and international organizations.

Following is the text of the press release:

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Software Engineering Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Sept. 15, 2003,

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Announces Partnership with Carnegie Mellon's CERT Coordination Center

PITTSBURGH -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University's CERT® Coordination Center (CERT/CC) to create US-CERT, a coordination point for prevention, protection, and response to cyber attacks across the Internet.

The US-CERT will begin as a partnership between the National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) within DHS and Carnegie Mellon's CERT /CC. The US-CERT will grow to include other partnerships with private-sector security vendors and domestic and international organizations. These groups will work together to coordinate national and international efforts to prevent cyber attacks, protect systems, and respond to the effects of cyber attacks across the Internet.

Carnegie Mellon's CERT/CC was formed in November 1988 within the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) after an Internet worm brought 10 percent of Internet-connected systems to a halt. The SEI is a federally funded research and development center operated by Carnegie Mellon for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Software Engineering Institute's sponsor. CERT/CC also is affiliated with Carnegie Mellon's Cyber Security Laboratory.

Today, Carnegie Mellon's CERT/CC alerts U.S. industry and computer users worldwide to potential threats to the security of their systems and provides information about how to avoid, minimize, or recover from the damage. The center has played a key role in coordinating responses to major security events such as the Code Red worm, Melissa virus, and most recently the MS Blaster worm and the Sobig.F virus.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge called US-CERT "a key element to our national strategy to combat terrorism and protect our critical infrastructure."

"The recent cyber attacks such as the Blaster worm and the SoBig virus highlight the urgent need for an enhanced computer emergency response program that coordinates national efforts to cyber incidents and attacks," Ridge said.

Speaking at a briefing in Washington, D.C. today, Carnegie Mellon University President Jared L. Cohon expressed enthusiasm for the partnership between the CERT/CC and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as its potential for future partnerships with industry and other universities.

"Carnegie Mellon is proud and pleased to have this opportunity to work with the Department of Homeland Security. We are committed to maintaining our longstanding leadership in cyber security and to building additional strength in this critical area," Cohon said.

"Our nation's growing use of the Internet for safety critical applications as well as business transactions, coupled with the increased sophistication and speed of cyber-attacks increases the risk that cyber-attacks can cause significant damage in short periods of time" said Richard D. Pethia, director of the CERT/CC. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with DHS and other partners to aggressively and continually improve our nation's cyber-security incident response capability.

The Department of Homeland Security said that the creation of a US-CERT was the first in a series of upcoming announcements on new partnerships and initiatives within the National Cyber Security Division.

About Carnegie Mellon:

A top national research university, Carnegie Mellon University has one of the most technologically sophisticated campuses in the world. Carnegie Mellon's research and education program includes an extensive cyber security laboratory initiative. The security initiative amplifies and expands on two of the university's greatest strengths -- a willingness to collaborate across departments and colleges, and a track record of working closely with government, business, and other sectors.

Carnegie Mellon is a leader in the improvement of information security and software quality and home to some of the world's top researchers in engineering, computer science, public policy, and software engineering. Carnegie Mellon is home to the Center for Computer and Communications Security (C3S), a multidisciplinary center established to tackle the challenges related to Internet security, data storage, and privacy issues. C3S is led by Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Pradeep Khosla.

About the SEI and the CERT/CC The Software Engineering Institute (SEI) is a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense and operated by Carnegie Mellon University. The SEI's core purpose is to help others make measured improvements in their software engineering capabilities. The CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC) is located at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI). Following an Internet worm incident that brought 10 percent of Internet systems to a halt in November 1988, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) charged the SEI with setting up a center to coordinate communication among experts during security emergencies and to help prevent future incidents.

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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