Ensuring the effectiveness and reliability of communications networks is essential to national security, the economy, and public health and safety. The communications networks (including core and access networks) can be threatened by both natural and human-caused events, including increasingly sophisticated and prevalent cyber-based threats. The GAO has identified the protection of systems supporting the nation's critical infrastructure — which includes the communications sector — as a government-wide high-risk area.
The GAO was asked to (1) identify the roles of and actions taken by key federal entities to help protect communications networks from cyber-based threats, (2) assess what is known about the extent to which cyber incidents affecting the communications networks have been reported to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and (3) determine if the Department of Defense's pilot programs to promote cybersecurity in the defense industrial base can be used in the communications sector. To do this, the GAO focused on core and access networks that support communication services, as well as critical components supporting the Internet.