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Black Hat: DHS calls for attitude adjustment

Jane Holl Lute, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said a lot that we’ve already heard during security conference keynotes. Whether it’s the RSA Conference, or Black Hat 2010 today, whenever a government official takes to the dais, there’s inevitably a call to the security community to do their part to preserve the integrity of the Internet or critical infrastructure.

Lute made the same tired refrain during her brisk keynote which opened up the annual Las Vegas hacker-fest. But she also added some interesting context to the discussion of the dynamic between government and security professionals. She urged the community to get past the notion that the Internet is a “Wild West” and nothing can be done to secure it. She pressed the attendees in the packed keynote ballroom not to view cyberspace as a war zone, but instead to do their part to make the Internet a safe, secure and resilient place that supports the American way of life.

The security of cyberspace is one of DHS’ five state missions (preventing terrorism, securing the U.S. borders, enforcing immigration laws, and helping build a resilient society are its four others). The problem, she said, is that technology is exceeding society’s grasp of it, and our ability to adapt and adjust is undermined. Also, she said, laws are lagging to keep up with the Internet as a platform for ecommerce.

Lute made a stern call for an attitude adjustment about perceptions of the Internet and promised healthy debates on cybersecurity from DHS and other government entities.

“Our goal,” she said, “is not control. It’s confidence.”

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