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Cyber threats? Send money

Top Secret America, is precisely so because the definition of what constitutes "cyber" is so elastic. CACI of Arlington, a major player in the U.S. government's cyber security business, recently held a symposium entitled "Cyber Threats to National Security," in partnership with the U.S. Naval Institute to discuss the issue.

CACI is chasing roughly $2 billion worth of cyber-related contracts over the next few years. Company executives said they sponsored the symposium pro bono.

The symposium's conclusions: There are redundancies, little coordination and a lack of clarity among the various government agencies, organizations and military command posts that do cyber work. The symposium report notes, "agencies have overlapping and uncoordinated responsibilities for cyber security activities."

The Obama administration's new Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), it says, "faces substantial challenges that cannot be overcome unless roles and responsibilities of all key CNCI participants are fully coordinated." That includes several agencies: "Commerce, Defense, and Homeland Security; the Intelligence Community and other executive branch entities," all with "various overlapping and potentially competing responsibilities."

We got two of CACI's top executives on the phone to chat.

Paul Cofoni, president and chief executive, and Zal Azmi, senior vice president of the company's Cyber Solutions Group, described some of the company's technologies. One system can detect all signals coming in and out of a building to check who's listening. Another uses biometrics data that's captured overseas and sends it back to databases in the U.S. for analysis. In another contract, CACI tracks the forensic evidence of any cyber attack on a U.S. Navy ship. The company also is making devices to be mounted on vehicles in the battlefield to detect enemy signals.

Cofoni's take on dealing with cyber and its many tentacles: sure, it has to be "coordinated with protocols, policies and procedures," but he admits that it is nearly "impossible for any central agency to contemplate every possible permutation of what's needed."

"If we tried to centralize every need for cyber we would fail utterly," he said. "That's trying to centralize around millions and millions of problems. We'd never solve them all."

The solution, or at least part of it, the report from CACI/Naval Institute symposium group says: Get Capitol Hill involved. Really?

Amongst its various recommendations, the symposium group says Congress should create a "federal cyber security organization with a well-defined charter and attendant authorities analogous -- and complementary -- to other federal organizations with oversight, direction and control over a particular area of responsibility, such as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security."

Another organization? It could be what's needed but it would come in a year when U.S. Cyber Command was created and all manner of cyber-work is being consolidated at Fort Meade. It seems it is the American way.

By Dana Hedgpeth  |  August 26, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
 | Tags: Contracting, Cyber operations, Obama Administration  
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Who in government actually knows what they mean when they talk of cyber security and cyber space? There are in point of fact very preicise definitions for such terms as cyber space, but my guess is that most of the host of "experts" clinging to the current fad of 'cyber security' haven't a clue.

Posted by: retiredreader | August 26, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

This article makes it sound like CACI is doing something soooo bad and evil. The fact is: the government lags behind industry in understanding and combating cyber threats, and has for ages. You can't wave a magic wand and state that the government now has 100% capability to deal with these threats with 100% of the experienced staff and 100% of the hardware and software required, and we can leave the contractors out and save billions in taxpayer money. The government needs the contractors, and as for-profit businesses, the contractors need the government.

Does the average Joe who boldly screams "the government is wasting money on combating these cyber threats" fully understand what's at risk? The entire global economy can be hit hard if cyber attacks against our banking system, the internet backbone, mission-critical GPS systems and satellites are successful. Hell, if Google gets seriously hacked, it would have huge economic repercussions to the USA.

Thank God that companies like CACI are stepping up to the plate to offer suggestions on what threats are coming and what solutions we might need. CACI shows great American entrepreneurial spirit, employs thousands of military veterans, and it's work protects national interests. What's so evil about that?

Posted by: aDoDContractor | August 30, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

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