The list includes some of the United States' primary cyber defenders: The Department of Homeland Security’s counterterrorism center. Federal guidelines for cybersecurity. Even private cybersecurity courses.
As President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats continue to feud over spending for a border wall and parts of the federal government remain shutdown, some of the federal government’s cybersecurity community remains out of commission.
Among the heaviest hit areas of the government are the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which has 85 percent of its staff furloughed. Because of the shutdown its public standards, which are also relied on by private companies and for cybersecurity courses, have been removed from the internet. Nearly half of the staff from the Department of Homeland Security’s new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are furloughed.
“A lot of real heavy lifting to secure the critical infrastructure is done by my DHS colleagues,” wrote Allan Friedman, a director of cybersecurity at the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. “None are being paid — including those running the 24-hour watch at the [National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center]. Only half of them are able to do their job."
Other parts of the federal government’s cybersecurity remain fully operational. The Pentagon, U.S. Cyber Command and most areas of the intelligence community are not affected by the shutdown. The Treasury Department’s IT and computer security incident response are deemed essential as well.
However, the biggest impact of the shutdown will not necessarily be felt in the short term.
“Operational, mission-critical employees are mostly designated as essential, and so we can expect that network monitoring will continue and cyber security incidents will get an appropriate response,” wrote Phil Reitinger in a post for the Global Cyber Alliance, a membership organization that promotes strong cybersecurity behavior. “What worries me most is the long-term effect of further limiting the pool of cybersecurity people who are willing to work for government.”
As the standoff continues, available financial reserves that agencies have saved are set to dwindle, Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president for the Professional Services Council, previously told Fifth Domain. Some contractors are also facing cash-flow difficulties, Chvotkin said. Some government officials contacted by Fifth Domain needed special permission to even answer emails and make phone calls. Those who had previously scheduled travel plans were unsure if their trips would go through.
Roughly 800,000 federal workers have been affected by the shutdown, according to the White House.
Justin Lynch is the Associate Editor at Fifth Domain. He has written for the New Yorker, the Associated Press, Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, and others. Follow him on Twitter @just1nlynch.