Chapter 1 provided a high-level overview of the need for a national framework for protecting critical infrastructure. For some additional reading, take a look at the latest Presidential Order that relates to strengthening cybersecurity that relates to critical infrastructure: After reading chapter 1 and looking at the link above, you’re ready to participate in the first discussion. Let’s look at a real-world scenario and how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plays into it. In the scenario, the United States will be hit by a large-scale, coordinated cyber attack organized by China. These attacks debilitate the functioning of government agencies, parts of the critical infrastructure, and commercial ventures. The IT infrastructure of several agencies are paralyzed, the electric grid in most of the country is shut down, telephone traffic is seriously limited and satellite communications are down (limiting the Department of Defense’s [DOD’s] ability to communicate with commands overseas). International commerce and financial institutions are also severely hit. Please explain how DHS should handle this situation.

In the given scenario, where the United States is hit by a large-scale cyber attack organized by China, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would play a crucial role in responding to and handling the situation. As the lead federal agency responsible for protecting critical infrastructure and coordinating the response to cyber incidents, DHS would need to take immediate and coordinated action across various fronts to mitigate the effects of the attack and restore normalcy.

First and foremost, DHS should activate its National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) to serve as the coordination hub for incident response efforts. NCCIC, which brings together government and private sector partners, is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information on cyber threats and coordinating response activities. By leveraging the expertise and resources available through NCCIC, DHS can ensure a unified and comprehensive response to the attack.

Given the scale and sophistication of the cyber attack, DHS should establish an Interagency Incident Management Group (IIMG) comprising representatives from relevant federal agencies, including the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Commerce (DOC). The IIMG would facilitate interagency coordination, ensuring effective communication and collaboration among different entities involved in the response efforts.

To address the paralysis of IT infrastructure in several agencies, DHS should prioritize the deployment of cybersecurity teams to affected agencies. These teams would work closely with agency personnel to identify and remediate vulnerabilities, restore network functionality, and recover critical systems. Additionally, DHS should provide technical assistance and guidance to affected agencies on threat detection, incident response, and system restoration.

Considering the shutdown of the electric grid across most of the country, DHS should collaborate with the DOD and the DOE to restore power and ensure the functioning of critical infrastructure. The DOD’s expertise in emergency response and the DOE’s knowledge of the electrical system would be invaluable in assessing the extent of the damage, prioritizing restoration efforts, and coordinating the necessary resources.

To address the limited telephone traffic and the disruption of satellite communications, DHS should work closely with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and private sector telecommunications providers. By coordinating efforts to restore communication networks and prioritize essential services, DHS can help ensure the effective flow of information and coordination of response activities.

In light of the severe impact on international commerce and financial institutions, DHS should collaborate with the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury to assess the economic implications and coordinate international response efforts. Engaging with international partners, sharing threat intelligence, and coordinating efforts to mitigate the attack’s global consequences would be essential in minimizing economic disruptions and building international cybersecurity resilience.

Overall, in handling the scenario of a large-scale cyber attack organized by China, DHS should focus on establishing effective coordination mechanisms, deploying cybersecurity teams, restoring critical infrastructure, coordinating with relevant federal agencies, and collaborating with international partners. By leveraging its expertise, resources, and partnerships, DHS can significantly mitigate the effects of the attack and ensure a swift recovery.

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