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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Homeland security goes online
Department of Homeland Security seal, AP
Homeland now extends online
Security agencies in the US are turning their attention to the internet.

The US Department of Homeland Security has created a new division to tackle net security.

The division is tasked with closing loopholes in government computer systems, responding to major incidents and making the country's critical infrastructure less vulnerable.

The move gained a guarded welcome by some security experts.

Security scrutiny

The Department of Homeland Security co-ordinates and oversees the work of the many US agencies tackling domestic and foreign terrorism but also works on making the country a safer place to live.

It was created in January 2003 in response to the September 11 attacks.

The new cyber security division will extend this watchdog role to the internet which will see its 60-strong staff divided between three separate arms.

One section will look at US Government computer networks to see if they are vulnerable to vandals or criminals. It will do the same for more tangible networks such as the electricity grid and telecommunication system.

A second unit will act as a rapid response centre that will react to major incidents, such as virus outbreaks or co-ordinated net attacks, and oversee work to combat them.

The third unit will concentrate on raising awareness about net security issues.

Electricity pylon, BBC
The new division oversees critical infrastructure
The cyber-security division is part of the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection directorate that is headed by Robert Liscouski, former security head at Coca-Cola.

The new division won a cautious welcome from technology experts who have been critical of past US government attitudes to net security.

The Department of Homeland Security suffered embarrassment earlier this month when questions were raised about the qualifications of one of its senior staff.

Laura Callahan, the Department's deputy chief information officer, has been put on administrative leave while officials investigate her background.




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