In what could mark a major improvement to the nation's ability to defend itself against cyber threats, the Department of Homeland Security will announce Friday that the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team will merge with the National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications.
The two groups -- now separated by two floors -- will now be co-located and will operate jointly. It's an interesting pairing, putting the public-private CERT together with the NCC, an interagency group of 22 Federal departments and agencies first created by President Kennedy in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The pending merger was discussed Thursday at a conference on cyber issues at the National Defense University.
One expert at the conference expressed concern that centralizing the functions of the two groups might work against their effectiveness given the widely distributed nature of the Internet. "The primary issue this affects is in response. The military itself is commanded hierarchically but distributes capability among different commands. Unifying the agencies can help with funding but slow response and dilute capability," said Samuel Liles, an associate professor at the Calumet campus of Purdue University.
To get some idea as to just how pressing the threat is, in one six month period the Defense Deparment spent $100 million responding to cyber attacks launched by Russia, China and other governments and non-state actors. That was disclosed at the NDU cyber conference. Under the conference rules, we cannot identify the source of the information.
We’ll update this as we get more information and reaction.