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Lawmakers voice concerns over cybersecurity plan

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The latest effort by the Bush Administration is the so-called "Cyber Initiative" - a plan to minimize the number of trusted internet connections, or TICs, and improve EINSTEIN's monitoring on those connection to prevent attacks in real time. The Bush Administration has budgeted $30bn over the next five to seven years for the programme, according to statements by Committee members. The 2009 budget has requested $294m for US-CERT to hire more analysts and fund the additional deployment of the system.

During Thursday's hearing, officials from the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland Security answered the Committee's questions on the non-classified components of the initiative.

As part of the Cyber Initiative, a major effort is under way to reduce the number of interconnections between federal agencies and the public Internet. Currently, more than 4,000 trusted internet connections (TICs) link the federal government to the internet, according to Robert Jamison, Under Secretary for the DHS's National Protection and Programs Directorate. Under the Cyber Initiative, that will be reduced to 50.

The DHS and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) share responsibility for consolidating the network connections, said Karen Evans, the administrator for OMB's Electronic Government and Information Technology division. The initiative applies to all connections, no matter the agency, she said.

"Any external connection to an entity causes a risk," Evans said. "All agencies have to report to the OMB all external connections, and that means all of them."

Agencies already have submitted plans to reduce the number of access points to Evans' office. The initial deadline for complying with the OMB's mandate is June 2008.

The second part of the Cyber Initiative calls for improvement to the EINSTEIN intrusion detection system and the deployment of the system to monitor all 50 internet access points. Currently, EINSTEIN conducts flow analysis - tracking the source, destination, port and size of packets on the networks of 15 federal agencies.

"We only monitor a very small percentage of federal network traffic," Jamison told the committee members. "We want, through this initiative, to increase that to 100 per cent of all federal network traffic."

The information is analyzed on a daily basis, and so cannot detect threats in real time, DHS's Jamison said. The system would be enhanced to do more real-time analysis, he said.

"We are currently not looking at any content. We are proposing that we are going to do that. The threats are real. Our adversaries are really adept at hiding their attacks in normal everyday traffic. The only way to really protect your networks is to have intrusion detection capabilities."

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