Lacking a Gut Feeling for Cybersecurity

Responding to Digital Threats as if they're Physical Ones
The gut feeling many people have about their physical security hasn't quite developed in the digital world, presenting a challenge for homeland security officials, says State of Delaware Homeland Security Adviser Kurt Reuther.

Reuther, in an interview with Information Security Media Group, says the relationship between homeland security and IT security is huge, citing remarks made earlier this year from FBI Director Robert Mueller that cybersecurity is one of the world's top three homeland security threats. "We don't do anything in today's world without cyber connectivity," says Reuther, a top official of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, who once served as a law enforcement officer for the state's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.

"One of the larger issues about cyber is that people don't think about it. You can't see it, feel it, touch it, but you certainly know when it goes away," Reuther says. "Taking folks away from that traditional feel of physical security - law enforcement, fire response, all those types of things we're very familiar with - and then taking it to a level where you are trying to build an awareness on something you really can't see and trying to beat that level of complacency is difficult."

The interview took place during a visit to Dover, Del., to meet state homeland security and information security officials, including Chief Security Officer Elayne Starkey [see On the Job Training for ISOs]. In the interview, Reuther explains:

  • His responsibilities as homeland security adviser, and the job's involvement with cybersecurity.
  • How defending critical infrastructure such as electric and water systems requires an understanding of their cyber components.
  • The role his office performs in building awareness among state residents and businesses to ramp up homeland defense.

As homeland security adviser for the past 2½ years, Reuther oversees state homeland security projects and serves as a liaison with the federal government on homeland security matters. Before being named homeland security adviser, Reuther spent three years as statewide law enforcement weapons of mass destruction coordinator.

Reuther began his career with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in 1983 with the Division of Parks and Recreation. In 1992, he was named Natural Resource's Regional Environmental Enforcement Officer for the Division of Air and Waste Management. In this capacity, he managed environmental and hazardous material emergencies. In 2004, Reuther was named chief of Air and Waste Management Enforcement. He also served a co-manager of the Natural Resources' Emergency Response Team and served as state on-scene coordinator for environmental and hazardous material incidents involving unified command and federal authorities.

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