The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has created a collaborative venture for public- and private-sector organizations in order to nip problems in the bud that are associated with industrial control systems -- at least the ones that can be nipped by computer.

The Control Systems Security Program (CSSP), offered by the Department of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity Division, has created the Industrial Control Systems Joint Working Group (ICSJWG) to allow the federal government to work with vendors and state and local agencies to address high-tech issues in their operations. The Department of Homeland Security issued a press release in February 2009 about the work group, but the group had already been established earlier in January.

"Basically what we focus on in the industrial control systems, or ICS community -- it's that connection between the cyber-world, or virtual world, and the real world," explained Sean McGurk, the director of control systems security in the National Cyber Security Division. "Essentially it's everything that you see in the real world that is controlled by a computer, for all intents and purposes."

This includes systems that run aquariums and zoos, people movers, roller coasters, data centers, power generation and distribution at nuclear facilities, chemical processing and manufacturing, oil and natural gas pipeline systems, heating and air conditioning -most of what anyone could think of in the systems-control arena.

Because so many of these systems are computerized, they're also vulnerable to security holes.


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Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  |  GT Staff Writer

By day, Hilton Collins is a staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines who covers sustainability, cybersecurity and disaster management issues. By night, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, and if he had to choose between comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. He can be reached at hcollins@govtech.com and on @hiltoncollins on Twitter.