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Nevada Homeland Security Commission concerned about cyberterrorism threat


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Members of the Nevada Homeland Security Commission expressed concern today that the state does not appear to have a coordinated effort or designated person to deal with the ever-growing threat of cybercrime.

“I’m amazed we already don’t have a handle on this” said commission vice-chairman and former Clark County sheriff Jerry Keller, “I’m absolutely amazed that nine years after 9-11, that we sit in the state of Nevada in a commission that has no authority to effect action except direct grant funds, and we can’t say who’s it; who is the person in Nevada for cybercrimes . . .”

Keller said the state either needs to designate someone who can coordinate efforts to combat cybercrime, or the commission needs to form a cybercrime subcommittee of its own so Nevada can better prepare for and prevent such attacks.

The commission decided to form a subcommittee of its own to bring the panel up-to-speed on cybercrime prevention efforts under way in the state.

The discussion came during a report on the activities of the commission’s Critical Infrastructure Committee by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Assistant Sheriff Mike McClary, who recommended the creation of a separate cybercrime committee because of the complexity of the issue.

The information is critical for the commission to decide which grant proposals should be awarded the limited funds available to the state, said Chairman Dale Carrison.

Cybercrime, or more specifically cyberterrorism, is the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace, according to testimony provided to Congress in 2000 by a Georgetown University professor.

“It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks and threats of attack against computers, networks, and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives,” said Professor Dorothy Denning.

In remarks earlier this year, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the agency believes, “the cyberterrorism threat is real, and it is rapidly expanding.”

“To date, terrorists have not used the Internet to launch a full-scale cyber attack. But they have executed numerous denial-of-service attacks,” he said. “And they have defaced numerous websites, including Congress’ website following President Obama’s State of the Union speech.”

The 14-member Homeland Security Commission meets quarterly. Keller, who is retired as vice president of security for Wynn Resorts, has been critical in past meetings of the state’s efforts in preparing for an act of terrorism, including failures to improve communications between different first-responders who would react to an incident.

“But we’re absolutely sitting still in the water in this state with making progress on several of these homeland security issues,” Keller said. “And it is very frustrating that we don’t have a person responsible for this; that this hasn’t already been done.

“All we can do is listen, and wait three months and listen again, and wait three more months and listen again, and hope that this gels into a solid product and it just doesn’t,” he said.

Carrison joined in Keller’s concerns, saying different groups are working separately on the issue, but that Homeland Security does not know what all the efforts entail or if they are coordinated.

The commission would like to know, “where we were, where we are and where we are going,” Carrison said.

“Because there is no coordinated effort in this state that I can see that has identified that,” he said.

Glade Myler, a senior deputy attorney general, said there is a cybercrime advisory council within the attorney general’s office that could make a report to the commission. He also noted that Gov. Jim Gibbons in June created the Nevada Crime Commission, which has cybercrime as one of its issues.

Kevin Favreau, FBI special agent in charge of the Las Vegas division, who serves as a non-voting member of the Homeland Security Commission, said cybercrime attacks on critical infrastructure are a focus of the agency’s InfraGard program. It is active both in Las Vegas and separately in northern Nevada and works closely with the private sector, he said.

“I would certainly pledge the FBI’s support to a second subcommittee looking at this issue,” he said.


Audio clips:

Former Clark County Sheriff Jerry Keller on lack of cybercrime coordination:

080410Keller1 :19 Nevada for cybercrimes.”

Keller on need to make progress on homeland security issues:

080410Keller2 :19 already been done.”

Homeland Security Commission Chairman Dale Carrison on lack of coordination on cybercrime coordination:

080410Carrison1 :19 what they’re doing.”

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