Homeland Security Department Opening Satellite Office in Silicon Valley

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is planning to open a Homeland Security satellite office in Silicon Valley to strengthen relationships with the private sector in dealing with cybersecurity, Johnson announced in San Francisco today.

“We want to strengthen critical relationships in Silicon Valley and ensure that the government and the private sector benefit from each other’s research and development,” Johnson said while speaking at the RSA Conference at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

“And we want to convince some of the talented workforce here in Silicon Valley to come to Washington,” he said.

The coordination of government and private interests in cybersecurity has been a major theme from the Obama Administration this year, particularly in President Obama’s last visit to the Bay Area in February when he spoke at a Stanford University summit on cybersecurity.

Obama signed an executive order at that summit encouraging the private sector to share cybersecurity threat information about data theft and online spying, calling it “one of the most serious economic national security challenges that we face.”

“There’s only one way to defend America from these cyber threats and that is through government and industry working together, sharing appropriate information as true partners,” Obama said.

Johnson reiterated that message today, acknowledging his department’s shortcomings in terms of talent and access.

“My message to you today is this: government does not have all the answers or all the talent,” Johnson said. “Cybersecurity must be a partnership between government and the private sector.”

Homeland Security primarily investigates cyber threats through its National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, which received over 97,000 incident reports last year and issued 12,000 cyber alerts or warnings, Johnson said.

One challenge facing cybersecurity investigators was the widespread use of stronger and stronger encryption, he said. Inability to access encrypted information poses public safety challenges, according to Johnson.

“I understand the importance of what encryption brings to privacy. But, imagine the problems if, well after the advent of the telephone, the warrant authority of the government to investigate crime had extended only to the U.S. mail,” Johnson said.

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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