SAN FRANCISCO – Michael Hermus left the software startup world two-and-a-half years ago to help the U.S. government get smarter about information technology. The chief technology officer of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sees progress in cybersecurity, but there’s still a long road ahead.
“It’s a national security priority for the government to get better at tech, and I don’t think everyone understands that yet…We are living in a world where it’s an arms race in an asymmetric situation where the attacker only has to succeed once, but we have to succeed every time,” Hermus said in a fireside chat at an even sponsored by the Consumer Technology Association.
DHS has a particularly broad attack surface because it is a mélange of as many as 22 federal entities with 250,000 employees and a $60 billion budget. It oversees cybersecurity in law enforcement as well as government systems, customs, airport security, disaster relief, border patrol and more.
“We have a very diverse mission portfolio…but each mission relies on IT…it gets specialized in areas like law enforcement where wearables are big,” including body cameras and vital-sign monitors, he said.
Hermus joined the government as part of an Obama Administration initiative to create a digital service modeled on one in the British government. Bureaucracy has been one of the chief impediments to modernizing the government’s use of tech, he said.
Hermus spent nearly 20 years in software startups. (Image: EE Times)
“Some of our partner countries are further along…and non-nation state actors are not constrained by anything,” he said.
Modernizing government’s use of technology has been a combination of practical steps and cultural shifts.
“We are overhauling out IT acquisition process to be cloud-first and support agile technologies. We’ve been working on it two years and still have a ways to go,” he said.
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