Wed | Feb 24, 2021 | 7:18 AM PST

In a new statement about elevating cybersecurity efforts in the United States, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas did not mention the SolarWinds cyberattack.

But he did praise the work of the U.S. government so far in cyber, and says his agency is going to take it up a notch:

"Cybersecurity is more important than ever, and we will build on the Department's excellent work as we transform our whole-of-government approach to tackle the challenge we face as a nation. This week is just the beginning of a series of actions DHS will pursue nationally and internationally to improve cybersecurity at all levels."

5 CISA cybersecurity accomplishments

Secretary Mayorkas says that DHS plans to carry out President Biden's vision when it comes to cybersecurity in the U.S.

This means that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is part of Homeland Security, will use its expanded powers. 

Congress recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows CISA more power to tackle its responsibilities. This includes allowing CISA authorities to "hunt" for cyber threats in federal networks and to identify vulnerable technologies used by critical infrastructure sectors.

For 2021, CISA has identified five specific cyber topics to focus on:

  • "Leading the national effort to secure the 2020 election, including by sharing timely cybersecurity information with state and local election officials;
  • Driving urgent remediation of risks posed by the exploitation of commonly used network management software and providing incident response assistance to compromised entities;
  • Collaborating with government and private sector partners to disrupt and help protect against malicious activity perpetrated by North Korean actors against financial institutions, including the distribution of technical alerts to help network defenders protect against these threats;
  • Issuing a directive to federal agencies requiring implementation of vulnerability disclosure programs, which allow security researchers to proactively identify weaknesses in government websites and applications; and
  • Facilitating shared cybersecurity services that can be used by federal civilian agencies and SLTT governments to rapidly improve cybersecurity capabilities."

How will DHS elevate cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity has become an increasingly important topic of discussion in recent years, as cybercrime has spiked through the roof.

In 2020, the U.S. Secret Service responded to 539 network intrusions, arrested more than 1,000 people for cyber-financial crimes, and seized over $140 million in assets. 

To combat the rise in cybercrimes, the Science and Technology Directorate and CISA announced inaugural research and development awards for something new: the Secure and Resilient Mobile Network Infrastructure (SRMNI) project.

Secretary Mayorkas also announced that he will increase the government's required minimum spend on cybersecurity through FEMA grant awards.

DHS responding to rise in ransomware

Secretary Mayorkas also plans to reiterate CISA's Reduce the Risk of Ransomware campaign this week, and will encourage organizations of any size and sector to work together to mitigate the risk of ransomware.

The government now plans to use the Secret Service's Cyber Fraud Task Force to help respond to ransomware incidents.

We'll let you know as additional changes to U.S. cyber defense tactics are implemented.