Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to
EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Host and Moderator
today and we are very glad you could join us.
We have wanted to do a program on cyber response planning for quite some
time, but we wanted to approach the topic from a comprehensive
emergency management perspective, not just system security. We
understand that the folks in New England have been pioneers in this
area, and we are grateful that they are here today to share their
Now it is my pleasure to introduce Adam Wehrenberg, Regional
Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP) Project Director for the
City of Boston Mayor's Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Mr.
Wehrenberg is responsible for the oversight of catastrophic planning
activities within the New England Regional Catastrophic Preparedness
Initiative (NERCPI), which includes the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
the states of New Hampshire and Rhode Island, as well as the Boston and
Providence UASI Regions.
We are also pleased to introduce Kevin O’Shea, Information Security Lead
for URS Corporation who worked on this multi-year effort to regionalize
the state and local response to a catastrophic loss of information
infrastructure and communications.
Welcome to you both and thank you very much for taking the time to be
with us today. I now turn the floor over to Adam to start us off please.
Adam Wehrenberg: Good afternoon and thank you very
much. As Amy mentioned, I am Adam Wehrenberg and I am the project
director for the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program up
here in New England. Back in 2008 our executive committee
identified cyber as one of the critical hazards that could severely
impact government operations and the lives of our citizens.
We set out with this program to establish a framework for incorporating
the physical effects of a cyber disruption with emergency management and
public safety folks with the technical expertise required to understand
these issues. The resulting framework is what we’ll present about
I will take a few minutes to talk about the genesis of the project, the
way we went about it and what our end state has been. Then I’ll turn it
over to Kevin and he will talk about some of the specific lessons
learned from the project management standpoint. Kevin and the URS
project team assisted us with technical expertise throughout the
development of this framework so he will be able to provide some insight
from that perspective.
We recognize this is an evolving concept and as reliance on cyber
infrastructure increases in all aspects of society our cyber disruptions
will evolve from mere inconveniences into major incidents with
significant public safety ramifications.
No longer is it just an aggravation that your email is not working but
there is potential in a fully interconnected world that the SCADA
systems or your control systems or simple things the public relies on to
get by on a day to day basis may be unavailable and have some cascading
effects with regards to their reactions.
Our cyber disruption planning project incorporates IT, emergency
management and public safety operations to ensure a consistent approach
to terminology as well as incident command structure and a common
understanding of expectations and dependence. As I said from the
top we started thinking about this in 2008 with our executive committee
identifying cyber as a critical hazard.
Originally we talked about cyber attacks as the hazard we wanted to work
on. The emphasis gradually shifted toward a cyber disruption
response focus. The primary reason for that is that the private
sector owns and operates a majority of the critical cyber assets and the
services on which the government relies and this project was focused on
how to mitigate the effects of a cyber disruption.
From a government standpoint and continuity standpoint we are going to
be required to manage response and the physical effects of that response
regardless of what limited responsibility we may or may not have to
secure those assets pre-event.
That is how we ended up where we are. There was some foresight
that cyber was going to be potentially an issue to tackle and frankly
from an emergency management standpoint we didn’t have the knowledge
base to understand what we did not know.
From the emergency management standpoint, more than just email and
file-sharing, our networks and systems are really important to our
operation and the operation of our citizens. Whether we are
talking about traffic lights or power infrastructure, criminal history
systems, communications—all of this stuff is routed through the majority
of our IT infrastructure.
To maintain the continuity and operations therein we needed to
understand what our reliance was on IT as well as what we would be
facing if something were to go down. It is a lot more than email
For our planning process what we started out by doing was identifying
our assets. We all maintained critical infrastructure key resource
lists—the basic most critical infrastructure we have in our
jurisdictions. We quickly realized our critical cyber assets were
not necessarily aligned with the CIKR list.
What I mean by that is that the facilities that meant the most to us in
terms of maintaining cyber infrastructure didn’t necessarily appear on
those lists. They may not have been known. They may have
been hidden in plain sight. Specifically those assets which had
critical functions for public safety functions were not necessarily on
After we set out determining what those assets were and prioritize them,
we had to figure out what the risk was to those facilities. We
set out on a comprehensive risk and capabilities assessment
program. We identified what the current state was in terms of our
ability to respond to anything that would occur at those assets.
Then we began integrating this information into our regional plan.
In order to pull people together and complete that integration we
created what we are calling a cyber disruption team. For lack of a
better term it is the people you would want as an incident commander or
an elected official at your right hand to tell you everything you would
possibly need to know about your reliance and expectations for
restoration surrounding IT.
We pulled together for their technical expertise, IT personnel, for
forensics and intelligence information sharing purposes, law enforcement
and for a structured incident response standpoint, emergency
management. This is really the core but a full developed cyber
disruption team includes other people at the fringes, the private
sector, federal assets, service providers and power companies.
The framework we created allows people to set up this basic framework
and gives them a roadmap for integrating future asset owners or future
To make this scalable the National Response Framework back in 2008
identified cyber as one component of ESF-2. Sticking with that
national model we decided that the CDT would be best incorporated within
or alongside ESF-2. Since we created a framework and not
necessarily a specific operational plan we left it up to the end
jurisdiction or end user to determine how they integrate it into their
For some jurisdictions that was as an ESF-2A, if you will. For
some others it was a component within ESF-2. We didn’t want to
specifically spell that out and dictate that but that is the direction
we gave it. In addition to completing within an ICS structure,
depending on the incident and depending on scope it could either fall
under planning or an operations section but we wanted this structure to
exist within the existing structure that people are already using.
We didn’t want to create an additional layer for response. We
wanted to merely put it into something that is already known and
understood by the partners that would enact it.
What are we left with at the end? We have created cyber disruption
teams within each jurisdiction. We have created this cadre of
individuals within each jurisdiction. It was adapted differently
in each jurisdiction.
In Rhode Island they have taken it probably the furthest of any of our
jurisdictions. They have emergency management IT law enforcement,
higher education and private sector—all very actively engaging with one
another to share this information and to train and exercise on this
structure to make sure they are prepared.
Massachusetts and New Hampshire are also doing the same thing.
Those are our other two states. I still think Rhode Island has built
this out the most clearly.
We developed a regional cyber disruption response annex which is a high
level document which sits on top of each of the cyber disruption team
jurisdiction specific plans. It serves very basically to coordinate that
function. What we didn’t want was a very lengthy plan that would
be difficult to use or implement. The plan is very brief. If
you have read it or have had an opportunity to see it in another venue
the plan is very basic. It identifies the roles and
responsibilities for regional coordination and identifies how these
people are going to share information and provides a series of templated
documents for facilitating conference calls and other types of
coordination structures. It is very brief and to the point.
We also created a training strategy. If you were to take three
years of your life to do online training you could probably get through
the majority of it. It is a very extensive list. We
identified throughout this process that there was a need to have IT
terminology understood by emergency management.
The reliance they had on IT as well had to be understood by the
emergency management and public safety folks. Additionally the
emergency management structures and public safety structure with ESF-2
and under the ICS structure—that basic ICS information had to be known
by the IT folks.
There were numerous opportunities for cross training that we identified
in our training strategy and we called a lot of those out. As a
cyber disruption team matures you want to provide certain training to
your IT folks about public safety and you want to provide certain
training to your public safety folks about IT.
There is certainly plenty where they are both receiving the same
delivery. The last document we are left with is a resiliency
annex. This document really serves two functions. One, it
memorializes our processes. If you developed the cyber disruption
team in your jurisdiction you can understand or be reminded of the
methodologies that we employed for assessing our databases or assessing
It will provide a start to finish process for understanding how we got
to where we are. For people who have already established the cyber
disruption team and already gone through the process it is a reminder, a
punch list for the future, in terms of refining your plans and
For jurisdictions that have not been involved in this one of our goals
it to expand this as far as we can and provide this type of framework to
as many people as possible. The resiliency annex is a tool for
them as well in that it helps to identify the step by step process we
took and we were kind enough to leave out the rabbit holes we fell down.
Hopefully it will streamline the process a little easier for anyone new
approaching this as opposed to some of the heartache we may have felt in
development. Hopefully it will save some time and aggravation on
the back end for anybody new.
To call this project completed would be somewhat of a misnomer. We
look at this project as constantly evolving with goals at various
timeline points from here on out. After about a year, and we are
just about at that point and maybe a little beyond it, memorializing
gains has been completed through the completion of that resiliency
As we continue to grow and as we continue to progress we want our cyber
disruption teams to continue to mature, to identify additional members
and incorporate them into their trainings or exercises, as well as
provide this framework to additional states and jurisdictions. It
is scalable that anybody could adopt it.
After about five years what we see as a future success is if I can call
on a cyber disruption team in the same way I can call on a tactical team
or bomb squad. FEMA has been working to create a typing mechanism
for cyber assets. When we started there was no typing structure
from the federal level.
Where you could request a type two fire engine you would know the water
capacity you were going to get—you can’t have the same classification on
a cyber asset. It did not exist. From our standpoint if we
can create a structure that enables that kind of sharing, be it of
personnel or resources, that is the direction we would really like to
Additionally as our grant has ended and the ability to fund further
improvements go away we look to centers for excellence that are popping
up to help us continue this effort. In Massachusetts, for
instance, there is a group called the Advanced Cyber Security
Center. They have done a great job of incorporating public and
private assets, higher education and federally funded research and
They have people looking at this from different perspectives and sharing
information about threats in real time. The more people we can
get on board to understand the ramifications of a critical cyber
disruption, the more buy-in we get over time. It is really
incumbent on cyber disruption teams and centers for excellence to help
us continue the process.
I’m going to turn it over to Kevin to talk about some of the specific
lessons learned from the project that we found at various points in the
Kevin O'Shea: Thank you, Adam. On lessons learned
we are going to start here that one of the big questions we needed to
answer is—what is catastrophic? It is easy when looking at a
Hurricane Andrew or Hurricane Sandy or Northridge Earthquake—it’s
catastrophic. It is immediately apparent.
When we talk about what a catastrophic cyber attack or disruption, that
was a bit different. We understand that if, for instance, you take
the internet away for a month that would be catastrophic on a number of
different levels. What is the threshold? Is it an hour, a
week or a month? In trying to determine that level it was
We worked around with our stakeholders and came down to a number of
criteria. One was sustained impairment to a critical business
process—your inability to pay people or inability to write prescriptions
in a hospital or something like that. If that critical business
function was impaired for a long period of time that would likely lead
to being disastrous if not catastrophic.
It was also interesting that it was hard to map these secondary and
tertiary dependencies and impacts. We know that IT is heavily
reliant on power and power is heavily reliant on IT. We know that
transportation is heavily reliant on IT, particularly rail. We
also know that power is heavily reliant on transportation.
When we look at these dependencies between sectors it became a little
bit more difficult to map how an IT outage would be catastrophic because
it may affect other sectors. That was something that was
complicating but it was an interesting thought exercise to work through.
It was easy to conceptualize events, incidents and disasters. As
an aside this was one area that the language barrier between IT and
emergency management became obvious. In IT an event is something
that just happens on a network or machine—a login or logout and so
on. We only get to where we are mapping incidents would be
something that requires intervention.
In the emergency management world we know that events are things that
need to be managed. Right there getting a room full of people from
IT and emergency management together we already had a bit of a language
divide. But we were all in agreement on what a disaster was
but looking at when does a disaster become a catastrophe?
If we have a large hurricane or sustained denial of service or a worm or
virus infection where you need to be rebuilding hundreds of
desktops—sustained power outage—how long does the power need to be out
before it becomes catastrophic? With generators, maybe seventy-two
hours—if we were without power for two weeks we would start to feel the
pain and that would start to lean towards a regionally catastrophic
In looking at these low probability high impact events—what we would
typically call the “black swan” events in emergency management—it was an
interesting exercise for us to work through what is a “black
swan” event in the IT world or what is a “black swan” event in
communications world. What we found was if we did take away the
internet infrastructure or communications infrastructure the impact was
so great that even though it was low probability, it ends up being
something that on a risk management level so large it really should be
considered in a comprehensive risk management plan.
In attempting to look at what is catastrophic I would say that as a
planning team including Adam we were overwhelmed with all the different
situations and scenarios that can cause a catastrophic events.
What we looked at are all the different threats that can cause an
outage. When we looked at all these different threats and gamed
out—a hurricane can lead to destruction of power lines which can lead to
a power outage. A hurricane can also lead to the physical damage
of say a data center and that can lead to loss of availability to your
When we start to map these out we found out that an infinite number of
threats and scenarios led to a fairly finite list of effects. This
led to our next lesson learned which was the benefits of using
something like effect-based planning rather than scenario or threat
based planning. So here are scenarios—loss of power, internet, and
local equipment and so on—they really provided a finite number of
planning scenarios that we could begin to address at a catastrophic
One of the benefits of effects-based planning was that it seemed to have
the effect of bringing people to the table willing to talk. We
found when we used more mundane type of events and extrapolated a
mundane event out to be a large event we got a lot of resistance to the
idea. If there was a large virus infection say, “We had a virus
infection the other day and we took care of it—it wasn’t a problem.”
When we went to effects-based planning and we said, “I don’t care how
you get there but let’s say you don’t have access to your desktops or
you don’t have access to your server room. What do you do?”
It seemed that the effects-based planning got people focused on action
steps that could be taken in preparation and action steps that could be
taken during response and during recovery and our meetings were more
This is a lesson learned out to you in the community here if you are
having trouble getting traction on difficult topics this is one approach
that worked well for us.
One of the next topics was reliance on IT systems. It was
interesting moving through our stakeholders meetings how little the
emergency management and law enforcement and even to some extent some
private sector groups, how little they were aware of their reliance on
the IT and cyber infrastructure. By cyber I mean colloquially the
collection of networks, servers and desktops that allow you to connect
and operate on the internet.
We found that people had little knowledge of the actual reliance on
these systems—the interconnectedness of these systems and how much that
other sectors and critical infrastructures would rely on the
internet. This was a good wake-up call for all involved that your
operations would likely be affected if IT went away.
It is worth having that conversation with IT to really get a good
understanding about exactly what your reliance is. For instance
the radio systems—we kept hearing law enforcement say they had radio
systems and they would be fine. Many times on further
investigation we would learn the radio systems at some point went on
leased lines or the internet as part of a trunked radio system and that
if there was some sort of large scale outage their radio systems might
be affected. That was something they didn’t know but throughout
this process they became more aware of the reliance.
That is our lesson learned number three—it is really hard to conceptual,
map and somehow articulate all the interdependencies we have within IT
and communications across all our sectors and critical business
processes. Believe it or not, “I don’t know” can be a very real
answer when you are looking at examining the interconnectedness in the
effect of if we lose system A, what is the effect across systems B
Often times we don’t know. It is not predictable. That is
why referring back to this effects-based planning because we weren’t
able to adequately predict all the interdependencies one of our only
solution is to say that at some point we have to plan for this system
being down or disrupted in some way and then really focus on the
effects—not always being able to map all the threats and vulnerabilities
of systems and how they are interconnected.
The next lesson learned was on managing large incidents. Emergency
management does a very good job about managing chaos. It is what
they do. Conversely we did not see across the IT community that
they had good policies and procedures to manage very large events or
incidents. That being said IT does a good job of help desk—taking
tickets, calls for services, working through that in the work of the
day, of being able to take things in, prioritize and get things out.
If we look at incidents that might last a week or more, or even several
days, we saw breakdowns in IT’s ability to manage that incident and be
able to have a command structure, be able to have operational periods
where people might be able to be relieved out and to really be aware of
all resources that might be available to them to help manage and survive
the incident. Things like public information officers, people that
might do outreach to other affected communities, people handling
logistics of bringing food, water, medicine and sleeping arrangements if
your technical staff was going to be stuck onsite for a long period of
I think in the evolution of IT within our incident response and disaster
recovery I still see there is room to grow regarding the management of a
larger incident. Emergency management principals can serve that
community very well.
The final lesson learned is that the halo benefits regarding planning
for a catastrophic event far exceeded our expectations. What I
mean by that is we went into a room preparing for Godzilla to come out
of the ocean and destroy everything and what we ended up with was better
policies and procedures to handle everyday events.
Planning for the very unlikely ended up having immediate benefits to day
to day operations well beyond what we were expecting. It would
have been interesting on a sociological level to find out why but our
quick hypothesis is that planning for events that are very rare ended up
kind of having people checking their egos at the door and they were
able to cooperate and participate in the process more willingly than
trying to work on a mundane day to day process and analyzing that
process where people might have more ownership or pride of ownership
over a process.
Planning for a pie in the sky or never going to happen event seemed to
get people thinking more broadly and they were a little more open to
ideas of how they might change to address something of that nature.
That, as we like to say, is the last three years of our lives and we
hope that some of our pain and learning points can help you moving
forward. I am going to turn this back to Amy to see if there are
any questions for us. We hope you enjoyed it.
Amy Sebring: Thank you very much. That was an excellent overview. We will move to the Q&A portion.
[Audience Questions & Answers]
Question: Amy Sebring: Are links to the resiliency annex and the regional plan available anywhere or can people request copies from you?
Adam Wehrenberg: We haven’t posted them publicly but I am
willing to share them with any constituents who wants it. My
contact information is there so drop me a line or send me an email and
I’ll send you our suite of documents. I’m sure they will spark
more questions than answers so I’m happy to work with anybody through it
and answer anything I can.
Question: Amy Sebring: Do you have any conferences or other in-person presentations on your schedule?
Adam Wehrenberg: There are none that I’m aware of.
In each of our states there may be ongoing activities as each CDT takes
it on their own but none currently scheduled.
Question: Amy Sebring: Can you tell us about any exercises held by
the perhaps one of the state cyber disruption teams? Have they gotten
that far to exercise some?
Adam Wehrenberg: When we finished the first iteration of
the cyber disruption response annex back in 2011—it was a framework at
that point more than an actionable regional plan—we wanted to test our
base regional catastrophic coordination plan as well as this annex and
another we had drafted. As part of that we pulled together each
state’s cyber disruption team for a series of drills.
There was an executive exercise first and then we went into state
specific drills to test that people understood the necessity of pulling
this team together—not necessarily testing the technical skills and not
striving to embarrass anybody for awareness of the plan or not, but just
to justify the existence of the plan and test that people knew how to
When we came together in April of 2011 that is when we had our big
exercise on the regional catastrophic plan. It was probably three
or four months of lead-up time in a series of drills and executive level
seminars—getting to that point. We did a series of drills like
that. Kevin has worked with the Rhode Island cyber disruption team
Kevin O’Shea: Following the executive drill, we did the
three state level drills and one large combined exercise with the cyber
plan and the IED plan and I have been supporting the Rhode Island cyber
disruption team for the last year and a half on a series of table top
and moving up to a quasi-functional exercise.
Even during the NLE-12 the cyber disruption response annex was used and
there was a cyber disruption team regional call during NLE-12.
Adam Wehrenberg: Last week I attended the National
Lessons Learned forum we had in Boston organized by FEMA and I was also
at the one on the West Coast in Santa Clara the week prior talking about
this framework as one possible solution to getting people together in
the same room to talk.
NLE-12 was a great opportunity to test a lot of what we have. As
far as the regional catastrophic program at large—for those of you
unfamiliar with the grant program, it only existed for four federal
fiscal years. The first one we were supposed to plan, the second
one keep planning, the third one train and the fourth one exercise.
We are still setting the strategy for how to implement the program in
the fourth year but it will likely include training at least at the
discussion level if not the operations level for all the plans, this one
Question: Avagene Moore: Thanks for your fine presentation,
gentlemen. Are there a number of similar projects or efforts
underway around the country? I ask because of one or more hearings
before Congress warning that the US is woefully unprepared for cyber
Adam Wehrenberg: There are and one of the reasons I was
invited to the West Coast Lessons Learned forum a couple of weeks back
was the state of California is starting the process of pulling together a
task force to deal with this. There are a number of other states
we have talked to in the process.
One that comes specifically to mind is Washington, and Michigan as well.
We’ve have worked with Washington a little bit. We spoke with
them at a conference on a panel together to talk about the similarities
of our approach. It is definitely something people are looking
at. I have spent time on the phone with a number of states as they
have gotten word of this plan and I have distributed it to them.
It usually sparks more questions than answers so I have spent time
talking to some people. It appears this effort is something that
is going to take shape in one form or another across all fifty states in
the near future. It is exciting to see the differences and we are
hoping we can create something positive for people to adapt to.
Question: Amy Sebring: Have you been in touch with the folks at DHS that are responsible for the cyber security area?
Adam Wehrenberg: One thing we learned quickly was that
there were a lot of federal partners with a lot of responsibilities for
cyber. There are a lot of resources out there. I mentioned
during my portion of the presentation there is a typing effort underway
now—at least the first draft is complete—that FEMA is undertaking.
We also have a cyber security advisor here in Region I. I believe
there are three or four across the country at the moment with the goal
of there being ten to map the same type of regions as FEMA
regions. In Region I we have one up here. There are a lot of
assessments and training that can be provided.
We have been in talks with a number of other federal agencies like the
NCCIC [National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center]
over the past few years. We had some of their folks come up and
talk at a cyber summit we hosted. We have been talking to anyone
that will listen but at the same time trying to always put in into the
scope of what assets we can provide to our folks to ensure they can
continue this effort after the life of this grant. It always comes
down to money in one way or another, right?
Kevin O’Shea: I want to build on Avagene’s
question. I ask because “one or more of the hearings before
Congress warn that the U.S. is woefully unprepared for a cyber
attack”. That is a two issue question. One is what is our
cyber security posture? Are we ready to defend against
attacks? And the second part is: How resilient is our
infrastructure—meaning that if we are getting attacked how well are we
able to absorb and/or recover from an attack?
Where the cyber disruption team concept here really is looking at those
as effects we are making the conclusion that if you look at the risk
equation on this—the chance of attack is one hundred percent. If
you start running the math on that at some point they will be
What success is for the bad guy may be getting on your network and
sitting there or shutting down a power plant. We just haven’t seen
the latter yet. Knowing that we do not have a tremendous amount
of control over the private sector’s control of critical infrastructure,
that we are downstream too much of both power and
What is under our control is our ability to have resilience and multiple
ways to communicate and what have you but also to mitigate and manage
the disruption should it or when it occurs.
Adam Wehrenberg: The purpose of our project from the
outset was to make sure the government could continue to provide
critical functions and understand the necessary order of
operations. If the system goes down and the prioritization is out
of whack such that someone can get a driver’s license but our police
officers can’t talk on their radios because we just didn’t understand
what the appropriate prioritization should have been then we would have
missed the boat.
Our focus was on the continuity of government. But in order for
this to be successful there has to be the next step of integration with
the asset owners, the private sector and people who can help make us
resilient so that we’re not just responding.
Question: Amy Sebring: I would like to follow up with a general question
about the halo effects, the benefits, which may extend even beyond the
cyber sphere. My general question is how was it working with the private
sector? How involved were they and how cooperative were they?
Kevin O’Shea: The original focus of this project was
mainly government systems. For the vast majority of the project we
were focused on government. IN all honesty the reason we wanted
to do that was that we wanted to bring the government up a few levels so
they’d be kind of talking as a peer with folks in the private sector as
opposed to starting the project and have the government folks be a
couple of steps behind.
We wanted to make sure we brought the government folks up a few levels
and then give them some good footing to engage the private sector.
The second part of your question: When we did engage the private
sector, it has been mixed. At times the communications providers
have been cool to participate. What we are trying to build is for
government agencies, and to some extent these private companies, to have
some transparency as to how resilient their systems are.
That resilience is going to look back at those dependencies on power and
communications, IT and water and so on. There is not a whole lot
of transparency into how resilient those providers are. The
providers for security reasons or trade secret reasons keep that
information pretty close to the vest.
We are making risk based decisions without all the information we really
need to make an educated risk based decisions. But other
companies that we are working with, even the IT providers are feeling
the same way about the energy providers. We are all facing that
same issue. The more we work together we can make better decisions
and also be better prepared and have those contacts ahead of time
should something bad happen.
Adam Wehrenberg: Seeking out organizations like the one I
mentioned—the Advanced Cyber Security Center—in Rhode Island, they are
trying to formally establish something being called a Cyber Center of
Excellence. These folks have taken, really, competitors and
through no shortage of non-disclosure language gotten them to sit in the
same room and share the vulnerabilities of the threat vectors they are
seeing as a means of strengthening their entire sector.
Those types of organizations are great to have. Oftentimes they
need to be spearheaded from outside of the government. If you can
seek one of those out in your jurisdiction those are a great type of
organization to be a part of and receive information from or give it to.
Question: Ray Pena: Describe, in general terms, how the community would
respond to an unexpected cyber-related multi-state power outage. Focus
on resolving cause and how immediate effects would be handled.
Kevin O’Shea: As a purely theoretical—and I’ll take Rhode
Island as an example just because I have been working with their team
most extensively. The cyber disruption team is led by law
enforcement. It has participation across academia and a number of
private sector companies including Raytheon, RBS Citizens and Dell
SecureWorks. They have team members that have pledged time and
energy should some large disruption happen.
We have actually done this very similar question in exercise where the
power company has a cyber related event and it is beyond their ability
to figure out what is going on and they are calling in for help from the
cyber disruption team. In reality that company might be calling
an incident response company, like a Mandiant or Dell SecureWorks, to
come in. But in this case let’s sat the cyber disruption team also gets
They would be forming up and moving out and helping manage the incident
as much as providing technical support. They might be providing
logistical support and planning support and things of that nature.
We are not really sure how much the power company would let outside
people be on their networks and let people meddle around on their
That is why the Rhode Island State Police is there and if they were
coming in as a law enforcement function they may get more headway than
just if the team was made up of a bunch of volunteer folks from
corporations. That is kind of how we see it happening. Power is
probably not the best example. We have used examples from state
run hospitals or something like that where they might be turning to
state resources to help out.
We do see the cyber disruption team concept expanding. We are
mainly focused on how they manage the incident and helping pull in the
right technical resources over what might be a response period that
would last 24, 36, or 96 hours.
Question: Amy Sebring: In the scenario of a multi-state, the regional plan annex would coordinate, correct?
Adam Wehrenberg: As we develop this regional cyber
disruption response annex—and it is really focused on information
sharing first and foremost. We would hope that as the typing
becomes more applicable to what we are working on, whether it is
physical assets or more likely personnel, that we could leverage the
existing interstate authorities like an EMAC to send personnel over
across borders and have them assist one another and understand that a
type I cyber disruption team comprises X capability and you guys can
come in and assist.
One thing we found is ‘every IT network is completely different and
unique from every other IT network. Nobody could possibly work on
mine.’ We’re hoping that capability and the typing mechanism comes
into play and there is some established consistency we can break down
some of those barriers as well.
Question: R. Bostick: Were scenarios explored where cyber support may be
requested from out of region/state? In what types of
Kevin O’Shea: You are right on with where some of the
original concepts for the cyber disruption team were headed. We
believed that as Adam was joking that the networks were so unique and
whatnot. Really when you look at it objectively we have two or
three manufacturers of large switches. We all use IP. We are
pretty much settled on using an Exchange back end a Windows or Linux
The amount of variability across one network to the next is not that
much. The idea that you could have a network tech or someone like
that be loaned from another jurisdiction I think is very
reasonable. We are a likely a generation or two away from that
concept being accepted within the IT community. Just as mutual aid
for law enforcement and fire took a couple of generations to get
through, like “My fire truck is unique. No one could find out
where the halogen bar is on my fire truck.”
That is all standardized now and you get mutual aid all the time.
It is completely accepted. I think that the cyber disruption team
lays out that framework but I think we are a little ahead of our time
when it comes to actually sharing personnel or resources. I think
that is coming. We were the fine line between genius and crazy and
I think for the moment we sound crazy. Maybe in a year we will be
geniuses. Who knows?
Question: Amy Sebring: Adam, you mentioned the resource typing for
these teams. You think a draft has been done. Do you have more
information about the status of that?
Adam Wehrenberg: I don’t. The last I saw was a
month or two ago. It is coming and FEMA is working on it in
earnest. I think we will see it evolve. Based on the rate of
change of cyber infrastructure it may be a little dated by the time it
comes out of the box but from a principle standpoint it is something we
will see in the near term and derive some benefit from it.
Kevin O’Shea: I hope the typing is at the intelligent
level where it is not immediately obsolete. I’m hoping they put it
at the appropriate level to where you can order through IMAC or
Stafford Act and order a switch with this general capability with this
general speed—that is where we’re going to see more resource sharing
when that resource typing is accepted in as at the level where people
are not immediately suspicious of it or disregarding of it because it is
too specific or because it is, gasp, three months old and we could
never use that.
Question: Amy Sebring: How awareness from non-IT type of folks—how
much all kinds of systems rely on this infrastructure and how they might
be impacted—I liked your effects planning but I almost think the
effects may need to be spelled out more. You may be looking at
terrible traffic—all these cascading effects.
I understand you cannot map all of these—loss of potable water and all
these various systems. I think anything that could be done to
bring awareness to folks—and you obviously did that throughout your
effort. It seemed that you were struck by that as well—how folks were
not aware of how much they rely on this infrastructure?
Adam Wehrenberg: Absolutely and getting the effects-based
planning came in handy in getting both sides to the table. You
get rid of the help desk mentality of “I can solve this immediately and
it’s not a problem” and from the emergency management and public safety
side “I don’t know about a spoofing attack or a denial or service attack
is and I don’t really care but the end result is I can’t distribute my
information to the public in the way I am used to.”
Something gets defaced on the city’s website. I need to deal with
the physical ramifications of that. For us the scenarios became
irrelevant and that really made a lot of people change the way they
thought about this, or the way they thought they had to think about it
in a way. As we further mature these cyber disruption teams you’ll
see these folks delve a little deeper into the specifics of the
cascading effects but for us just getting people in the room was a huge
victory. That certainly helped us do it.
Kevin O’Shea: I’d add on one item to that where you are
talking about dependencies. Throughout the process—again it is
oftentimes in the planning that the process is more valuable than the
deliverable itself. We have found in several occasions where the
process of going through this that certain critical infrastructure like
data centers were not on their critical infrastructure list.
Folks were not aware of how reliant, for example, power was on IT.
Being able to make those connections—like you are saying how potable
water might be affected—it allowed people to make better risk decisions
because they were making assumptions that everything would be okay and
that an IT outage wouldn’t affect water.
All of a sudden when they learn that they start changing some of their
own risk equations to account for that—and I think that had a very broad
effect well beyond this project.
Amy Sebring: On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our
participants, thank you very much to both of you for being with us today
and sharing this information with us.
Thanks to everyone for participating today and have a great afternoon! Have a safe and happy Fourth of July! We are adjourned.