Mar 12, 2020 - Health

DHS' cybersecurity agency to test remote capabilities amid coronavirus

Christopher C. Krebs, director of the Homeland Security Department's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency speaks in a hearing

Christopher C. Krebs, director of the Homeland Security Department's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will send many of its employees home tomorrow as part of a stress test of its telework system, so it will be ready in case the coronavirus makes more work-from-home arrangements necessary in the coming weeks, the agency tells Axios.

The big picture: The Office of Personnel Management recently urged federal agencies to "'immediately review' their telework policies, sign paperwork with employees laying out their duties, issue ­laptops and grant access to computer networks," according to the Washington Post.

CISA, part of the Department of Homeland Security, is a particularly interesting case given its role in protecting the nation against cyberattacks and the most significant risks to America's critical infrastructure.

  • Director Christopher Krebs ordered the March 13 test.
  • Employees will coordinate with managers to work remotely as appropriate. Some jobs the agency does, including dealing with classified information, may not be able to be handled remotely.
  • "This telework event will evaluate the current remote capabilities available if CISA-wide telework becomes necessary in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus," agency spokesperson Sara Sendek said.

Why it matters: The agency-wide testing comes as the virus has officially been declared a pandemic, and organizations across the country prepare for weeks or months of working and schooling from home.

Details: The Trump administration has not yet issued a government-wide mandate, and it was not immediately clear which departments or agencies need to run tests, how long determining readiness will take, or how many functions can actually be carried out by employees trying to work from home versus the office.

Worth noting: More than 2 million people work for the federal government across America, according to 2018 figures from the Office of Personnel Management.

  • According to the Post, close to half the federal workforce was eligible to telework when Trump took office, but few have done so full time.
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