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Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Defense

September 6, 2019
By David Vergun

Cyber Strategy Protects Critical U.S. Infrastructure

Last spring, the Defense Department embarked on a new cyber strategy that will play an increasingly important, yet nontraditional supporting role: protecting critical infrastructure in the homeland.

Burke E. "Ed" Wilson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Cyber Policy, spoke about the "Pathfinder" strategy during a panel discussion yesterday at the 10th Annual Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington.

"[It is] new territory for the department, so we're not trying to overarchitect or overthink the problem," Wilson said. "We're trying to ... begin collaboration with industry and interagency partners to understand roles and responsibilities and the unique attributes, scale, scope and perspectives that the department can bring in defense of critical infrastructure."

DOD has already begun partnering with other government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, as well as with critical infrastructure representatives, he said.

U.S. Cyber Command and some intelligence agency representatives also are sharing information in Pathfinder, such as indicators of compromise and systemic risk, he said.

The Defense Department is focused on two key infrastructure assets, Wilson said: financial institutions and the energy sector. Regarding the electrical grid, that partnership also includes the Energy Department.

Pathfinder is making headway, Wilson said. "There's a lot of wind in that sail," he added. "We're making good progress."

Tonya Ugoretz, deputy assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Readiness, Outreach and Intelligence Branch, said the FBI is also collaborating with government agencies, including DOD, and with private sector companies and infrastructure to prevent malicious criminal activities.

The FBI, industry, academia and other government agencies also participate in the National Cyber-Forensics Training Alliance, a nonprofit organization established for information sharing about criminal activity, she said, noting that, as a result of that collaboration, a malicious bot recently was taken down and arrests were made.

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