New DHS center aims to protect US infrastructure from cyberattacks

The center will work to identify and prioritize cyber-based threats.

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce a new center today that will work to protect US infrastructure from cyberattacks, the Wall Street Journal reports. DHS Under Secretary Christopher Krebs told the publication that the National Risk Management Center was created to address growing threats to the nation's infrastructure from foreign-based attacks, citing last year's WannaCry ransomware attack as an example. Banks, energy companies and other industries will be a focus of the new center. "It's not about a single bank," said Krebs. "It's about a sector of banks and the function they have in society."

The center will work alongside various industries to identify and prioritize cyber-based risks. It will be operational by Wednesday and will be staffed by existing DHS employees. The announcement is expected to be made at a cyber summit taking place today in New York City.

While President Trump claimed earlier this month that Russia was no longer targeting the US with cyberattacks, the DHS has said Russia-based groups infiltrated US utility companies, has accused Russian attackers of attempting to compromise routers, switches and firewalls and has warned that Russian groups tried to hack US government entities and infrastructure sectors like energy, nuclear, commercial, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors. Earlier this month, the NSA created a task force dedicated to tackling online threats originating from Russia.

"Right now there are too many 'cyber' voices and none with the authority to truly coordinate anything [in government]," David Merkel, CEO of cybersecurity firm Expel, told the Wall Street Journal. Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning told the publication that the new center would enable the US "to hold the bad guys accountable."

The Trump administration has been criticized for not taking cybersecurity as seriously as it should. "To the criticisms of the White House not being involved, there is a strategy under way," said Krebs. "This White House is empowering the agencies to do our jobs. And we are seizing that opportunity."