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This year has seen a rise in cyber attacks aimed at taking over control systems that operate critical infrastructure, such as industrial facilities and pipelines, a senior Department of Homeland Security official said.
The government is tracking more cyber attacks that have a greater level of sophistication and target specific types of industrial infrastructure, such as power grids.
“It is widely recognized that the cyber ecosystem we have today favors the offense and not the defense,” said Greg Schaffer, assistant secretary for the DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications. “It is simply too hard to secure the systems.”
Stuxnet, which affects Windows-operating systems responsible for running supervisory control and data acquisition systems, is one example, he said.
There is no indication the threat from Stuxnet has subsided, and the potential remains for some U.S. infrastructure to suffer from an attack, he said.
Defending information technology networks requires a balance between having protective measures but not impeding the ability of government workers to carry out their duties. “Security is an exercise in risk management,” he said.
The Homeland Security Department and National Security Agency just signed a memorandum of agreement to cooperate on cyber security efforts and share personnel.
“This structure is designed to put the full weight of our combined capabilities and expertise behind every action taken to protect our vital cyber networks, without altering the authorities or oversight of our separate but complementary missions,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a joint statement Oct. 13.

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