MITRE: US Government Needs to Focus on Critical Infrastructure

1 month ago 20
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Between the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, heightened tensions between China and Taiwan, and a growing number of attempts to attack critical infrastructure, such as power plants and water-processing facilities, the US federal government has a lot to monitor in cyberspace. MITRE, the nonprofit tech and engineering consultancy, has outlined a set of priorities for the next presidential administration to focus on — regardless of who wins the 2024 election.

MITRE's "Don't Trust but Verify: Strengthening U.S. Leadership To Safeguard Our Cyber Defenses" memo identifies areas for prioritization, including preparing for advances in quantum computing, protecting critical infrastructure, clarifying leadership roles, and implementing a zero-trust framework within the federal government.

Priority 1: Protect critical infrastructure. MITRE calls for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to update recovery plans for the sector within six months and large-scale critical infrastructure attacks to its National Preparedness System. DHS should also start running simulations akin to natural disaster drills that can hammer out reactions, such as a company rehearsing its incidence response plan. In addition, legacy systems should be upgraded so they can handle zero-trust principles, such as microsegmentation, and to enforce the use of software bills of material (SBOMs), even expanding them to list out "cryptographic details." And within 90 days, the federal government should identify ways to support local and state governments with their own security practices.

Priority 2: Implement zero trust and SBOMs. To protect critical infrastructure, the federal government should fully migrate to zero trust and require secure software development via SBOMs within the first six months of the new administration.

Priority 3: Prepare for quantum computing. The third priority is to get ready for cryptographically relevant quantum computers. Within six months, the federal government should assess its own readiness for post-quantum cryptography (PQC) based on National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards, which are well on their way in the private sector. The government can use cryptographic information from SBOMs to identify which systems need to be upgraded. MITRE also suggests using PQC Coalition — an industry group it formed — as a source of expertise in making commercial and open source software compliant with NIST's PQC standards.

Priority 4: Clarify and strengthen authorities. The last of the top four priorities is to clarify the roles and responsibilities of cybersecurity leaders and organizations. Within the first 90 days, the new administration should comprehensively map out and clarify the authority, roles, and responsibilities regarding cybersecurity of personnel across key government offices and expand authority as needed. Finally, MITRE suggests spinning out the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) as an independent agency rather than keep it within the DHS.

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