NEW YORK – It's called the National Risk Management Center, and it's expected to help the Department of Homeland Security guard the nation's banks, energy companies, and other industries from major cyber attacks that could cripple critical infrastructure.
Speaking at a government-hosted cyber summit in New York City Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the US is "in a crisis mode" on cybersecurity.
“Cyber threats now represent a greater threat to the United States than physical threats,” she warned. "Our digital enemies are taking advantage of all of us. They are exploiting our open society to steal, to manipulate, to intimidate, to coerce, to disrupt and to undermine.”
Meanwhile, CBN News learned details about the new center that were unveiled at the summit.
DHS Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen called the new National Risk Management Center a “focal point” for DHS and the private sector with a mission of coordinating responses to attacks and efforts to remediate their impact. pic.twitter.com/X0KYBESIpN
— Erik Rosales (@ErikRosalesCBN) July 31, 2018
Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary Christopher Krebs explained in an interview that the center's creation was motivated by a growing recognition in government that sophisticated cyber attacks, particularly those deployed by foreign adversaries, can not only harm a company or industry but can cause systemic failure across society.
"It's not about a single bank," Krebs said. "It's about a sector of banks and the function they have in society."
Krebs adds the risk management center is intended to have different industries work with DHS and other agencies to identify and prioritize cyber risks to critical national functions, like the financial system or power grids.
DHS officials say it will be operational by Wednesday and located at the DHS campus in Arlington, Virginia.
DHS will reprioritize existing employees to the center, which will sometimes embed officials with industry partners, Mr. Krebs said.
As CBN News has previously reported, foreign adversaries, like Russian hackers working for a state-sponsored cyber-espionage unit, could have caused electricity blackouts in the US last year after gaining access to some utility control rooms.
DHS told CBN News the hackers, identified as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear, broke into supposedly secure, "air-gapped" or isolated networks owned by utilities with relative ease.
The attackers began by using conventional tools — spear-phishing emails and watering-hole attacks, which trick victims into entering their passwords on spoofed websites — to compromise the corporate networks of suppliers, many of whom were smaller companies without big budgets for cybersecurity.
Last year, Krebs said the global WannaCry ransomware worm infected hundreds of thousands of computers in over 150 countries. It's believed that virus came from North Korea.
WATCH TUESDAY'S CYBER SUMMIT BELOW:
Tuesday's cyber summit featured a collaboration of dozens of chief executives from critical infrastructure sectors and private firms.
It comes as the Trump administration faces criticism from lawmakers in both parties for not having a coherent cybersecurity strategy, particularly when it comes to safeguarding the 2018 midterms from hacking or other forms of Russian interference.
Vice President Mike Pence, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, FBI Director Christopher Wray and other officials are also scheduled to attend the summit. CBN News will be there as well.
"To the criticisms of the White House not being involved, there is a strategy underway," Mr. Krebs said. "This White House is empowering the agencies to do our jobs. And we are seizing that opportunity."