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DHS offers advice for ensuring telecom during pandemic

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  • DHS offers advice for ensuring telecom during pandemic

    The so-called ?last mile? of the nation?s telecommunications system would be vulnerable in the event of a pandemic influenza, according to a working group tasked with studying the potential communications consequences of an outbreak. Greg Garcia, the Department of Homeland Security?s assistant secretary of cybersecurity and communications, recently weighed in on the security of a pandemic health crisis, noting that as much as 40 percent of the workforce would be unable to go to work during peak periods of an outbreak.

    ?And you don?t get to pick which 40 percent that could be,? he said during a speech at the New York Metro Infragard Alliance Security Summit in December. ?Naturally, telecommuting will be a key mechanism to keeping our businesses and government operational during a pandemic flu.?

    The working group, which meets monthly, found that connections to homes, hospitals, health plans and physicians would likely be disrupted. But that scenario could be mitigated if ISPs, telecommunications carriers and service vendors put in place safeguards, policies and best practices ahead of time, Garcia said.

    Among the group?s recommendations to hospitals, businesses, and government agencies: obtain a telecommunications service priority (TSP) for enterprises; subscribe to government emergency telecommunications service (GETS) cards and/or wireless priority services (WPS) capabilities for critical IT staff; limit access to business critical services through the enterprise connection; limit remote access to users critical to maintaining business continuity; adjust or retime automatic desktop backup software updates for telecommuters; and enhance the enterprise?s cybersecurity posture due to increased reliance on communications and IT, reduced support staff and the increased threat of cyber attack.

    ?All of us must do everything possible to keep our nation operating and delivering critical services under even the most challenging circumstances,? said Garcia.

    "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation