The Next Manhattan Project

The keynote addresses at RSA conferences are mainly vendor marketing pitches. But it’s worth taking a listen to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s talk at this week’s RSA conference in San Francisco.

It’s an eye-opener. The US Government has finally woken up to the realities of cyber attacks. It’s building a heavyweight cyber security center, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into cyber defences and aiming to kick federal security defences into shape.

Chertoff sees the new programme as a Manhattan project for cyberspace. It’s an ambitious initiative. He aims to speed up incident response cycle times so that attacks can be detected before they’re launched. He wants to tackle weaknesses in the supply chain such as back-doors planted in hardware or software. And he’s aiming to attract the brightest and best from the private sector to work on the programme.

It’s no less than a revolution in thinking, at least for government security. Let’s hope that something useful for industry and society comes out of it all.

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The speech that Michael Chertoff gave was good and it's good to see that protecting critical infrastructure in the United States has finally become a priority. The biggest challenge I see is that sufficient funds and resources are allocated the for proactive measures as opposed to reactive measures such as incident response and intrusion detection and prevention. Clearly these components are necessary but the preventative measures such as integrating security into fundamental business process need to be part of the equation. Without a good balance of both preventative and reactive solutions this investment may not be as effective as it could be.