Department of Homeland Security Offers Planning Resources to Aid Higher Education in Cybersecurity Preparedness

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The Department of Homeland Security released Exercise Starter Kits to assist institutions of higher education in responding to various campus threats; one of the starter kits is designed to plan for cyber breaches.

On June 5, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released three Exercise Starter Kits for institutions of higher education (IHEs) as part of the agency's Campus Resilience (CR) Program. The CR Program was launched in 2013 and is a DHS initiative "to engage institutions of higher education in developing and testing an emergency preparedness and resilience planning process" and is "dedicated to helping colleges and universities build, sustain and promote resiliency to the threats that confront institutions across the nation."

One way in which DHS executes the mission of the CR Program is by encouraging self-conducted tabletop exercises. Such activities allow institutions to assess and evaluate their existing contingency plans for responding to emerging threats. DHS has made Exercise Starter Kits available to "provide IHEs with a set of scalable tools and documents to develop a self-conducted tabletop exercise that can be tailored to match pressing threats and hazards."

IHEs may currently request an Exercise Starter Kit in three different emergency areas: cyber breaches; hurricanes; and active-shooter incidents. The kits consist of planning documents containing prepared content for the exercise, such as an exercise conduct briefing; a situational manual providing background on the scenario content, as well as discussion questions for exercise participants; a facilitator guide to support exercise leaders; a participant feedback form for participants to provide honest feedback on the exercise; and an after-action report template for summarizing key strengths and areas for improvement.

The self-conducted tabletop exercises are designed to supplement a series of campus-based events referred to as national tabletop exercises. These DHS-conducted events connect leaders at IHEs with federal, state, and local government personnel who are regularly engaged in areas of campus resilience. They are designed to test and promote campus and emergency preparedness. To obtain an Exercise Starter Kit, EDUCAUSE members should complete a sign-up form found here.

Kathryn Branson is an associate with Ulman Public Policy.

© 2018 Kathryn Branson. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.