Cybersecurity News Round-Up: 1/13/12

It’s all about cyber defense this week, as nations and their governments, industry and individual businesses scurry to secure key technological infrastructure.

Starting with President Obama, who late last week, rolled out his new plan to ramp up the U.S. military’s efforts, including those on cybersecurity, despite having to make several spending cuts due to the budget crunch.

Highlighting the need for more investments to help fend off attacks against the nation’s defense systems, the President noted in a press conference, “Our military will be leaner, but the world must know: The United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats,” according to Bloomberg.

But, in conjunction with the National Security Agency, the Pentagon is already working on its own defenses to thwart cyber attacks. According to the Washington Post, a new study from Carnegie Mellon University, commissioned by the Department of Defense, took a closer look at a recent Pentagon initiative, which uses NSA data to help guard against potential breaches to U.S. defense contractors’ computer networks housing critical and classified information of the Pentagon.

While the study found that the Pentagon’s program does open up new opportunities to work with the private sector, the Post reported, “The test program, which began last May, relied on NSA ‘signatures’ or fingerprints of malicious computer code that in initial stages were ‘stale when deployed’ and in many cases did not prevent intrusions that the companies could not have blocked themselves.”

The same may be true for the private sector in its efforts to defend the nation’s power grid, as the Department of Energy and the Defense Department announced their collaborative launch of a new program, the “Electric Sector Cybersecurity Risk Management Maturity,” which aims to “enhance the security and reliability of the nation’s electrical grid.”

While 85 percent of U.S. critical infrastructure, including much of the utilities industry, is owned by the private sector, the agencies’ new initiative intends to offer up insights to help prevent potential energy disruptions caused by cyber attacks.

“This effort will be focused on performance-based strategies and concrete steps to measure progress of cybersecurity in the electric sector,” said White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt in a state on the Energy Department’s website. “It is important to understand the sector’s strengths and remaining gaps across the grid to inform investment planning and research and development, and enhance our public-private partnership efforts.”

Across the Atlantic, more aggressive efforts are being taken to defend against a cyber attack that led to thousands of Israeli citizens’ credit card numbers and other personal information being leaked online.

According to the Associated Press, a hacker, calling himself “0xOmar” and claiming to be from Saudi Arabia, stole over 21,000 active credit card numbers, publishing the numbers online, and escalating the already-tense relationship between the two nations.

Gadi Evron, a cybersecurity expert in Israel, told the AP that “politically-motivated cyber attacks have [been] taking place for the last 20 years,” adding that his country is “more prepared than most countries to deal with cyber attacks, but it must improve cybersecurity coordination with the private sector, which controls key infrastructure like Internet and cellular phone providers.”

Sound familiar?

Michelle Kincaid is a DC-based public affairs professional specializing in technology issues. She is also founder of the blog Follow her on Twitter @OnCybersecurity.

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Michelle Kincaid is a DC-based public affairs professional specializing in technology policy. She is creator of the blog