CISA infrastructure security official Brian Harrell steps down

Since joining DHS in December 2018, Harrell has helped organize cybersecurity drills for critical infrastructure companies.
Brian Harrell, asst. dir. of infrastructure security, CISA, DHS
Brian Harrell speaks Oct. 2, 2019, at the Public Sector Innovation Summit presented by VMware and produced by FedScoop and StateScoop. (Scoop News Group)

Brian Harrell, a senior official in charge of physical infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, resigned his post on Thursday and is headed to the private sector.

“During my time at [the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency], we have responded to hurricanes and historic floods, provided expertise after mass-shootings, engaged thousands of critical infrastructure owners and operators, and we are now providing the private sector assistance during COVID-19,” Harrell wrote in a resignation letter to President Donald Trump.

Harrell, a former security executive in the electric sector, Harrell joined DHS in December 2018. He has helped organize cybersecurity drills for critical infrastructure companies, including the recently completed “Cyber Storm” exercise, which drew 2,000 participants. Harrell also helped run CISA’s security team for the last two Super Bowls.

Starting Monday, CISA Deputy Assistant Director Steve Harris will fill Harrell’s role in an acting capacity, an agency spokesperson said.


In his previous role as a security executive at Duke Energy, a utility with some 8 million customers, Harrell oversaw penetration tests of the company’s networks and responded to security incidents.

Harrell’s departure follows that of Grant Schneider, the former federal chief information security officer, who announced this week he was also leaving the Trump administration for the private sector.

This is a developing story. It will be updated when more information becomes available.

Sean Lyngaas

Written by Sean Lyngaas

Sean Lyngaas is CyberScoop’s Senior Reporter covering the Department of Homeland Security and Congress. He was previously a freelance journalist in West Africa, where he covered everything from a presidential election in Ghana to military mutinies in Ivory Coast for The New York Times. Lyngaas’ reporting also has appeared in The Washington Post, The Economist and the BBC, among other outlets. His investigation of cybersecurity issues in the nuclear sector, backed by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, won plaudits from industrial security experts. He was previously a reporter with Federal Computer Week and, before that, with Smart Grid Today. Sean earned a B.A. in public policy from Duke University and an M.A. in International Relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

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