Napolitano Announces Contest for Ideas to Promote Cyber-Security

Proposals for National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign Challenge due April 30.

by / March 4, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO -- U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has issued a contest to the IT security community that asks for ideas on how to develop a public education campaign on cyber-readiness.

She asked IT professionals attending Wednesday's events at the annual RSA Conference on information security for help in framing a massive messaging campaign designed to make Americans more educated and diligent about keeping their own devices more secure.

"We want you to develop your own approach to a clear and compelling message for the American public," she said during an afternoon speech about the Obama administration's cyber-security efforts. "We would like to gauge in that approach with a competition to gather and share the most creative ideas for making the public more cyber-secure, more cyber-smart, more cyber-assured."

Details on the National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign Challenge are available at Entries will be judged on teamwork and partnership, use of Web 2.0 technology and privacy protections. Finalists will be invited to a special event in Washington, D.C., this spring, and the DHS will put its power behind spreading the message that's chosen in an October launch. The contest closes April 30.

Napolitano told listeners that they should think big if they want to compete.

"Let me just remind you about the campaigns on forest fires and stopping smoking and some other things that have literally changed human behavior as they have gone out in a massive way. That is the scale we are looking for," she said. "The challenges facing our nation are urgent. They involve international security, they involve our national security -- both from a fiscal infrastructure standpoint and from an intellectual property standpoint. They involve every level: from large federal institutions to large corporate institutions down to each individual who gets online."

She framed the mission to protect our "IT cyber-ecosystem" as a joint effort that will take speed and innovation. She compared the effort to hockey, where a great player like Wayne Gretzky looks ahead to where he thinks the puck will be later, not where it is now.

"We don't need to be skating where the puck is. We need your help. We need your brainpower, we need your expertise, we need to identify where that puck is going to be and get there and then beyond," Napolitano said.

'Einstein' Joins Crime-Fighting

Napolitano followed an address by Philippe Courtot, the CEO of Qualys, a cloud security vendor. He spoke of how competition between cloud vendors will spur innovation in that arena, and how technology is changing so quickly. Like Courtot, Napolitano touched on how technology is changing culture, and she also spoke of what the DHS is doing to enhance security in a rapidly changing world. She stressed the importance of teamwork.

"If I could emphasize anything, it's this: We understand these challenges. I think we are building one of the best teams anywhere to tackle that, but our success will depend in no small part on our ability to intersect effectively and efficiently with the private sector," she said.

She told attendees that the federal government will work to prevent and preempt cyber-attacks without impinging on personal privacy and civil liberties. This includes the deployment of Einstein, the federal government's intrusion detection system developed by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which is being deployed to more and more federal agencies as it undergoes multiple iterations. And the government is striving for better coordination between departments and a reduction in duplication of efforts and redundancies in systems.

"Our goal, of course, is to be able to ensure the continuity of government and private-sector services and information while protecting privacy," she said, "and also providing the ability to bounce back even more quickly should a large-scale attack or really an attack of any size occur."


Hilton Collins

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.

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