Experts tout info-sharing as best cyber defense

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Cyberattacks have rocked American industry, U.S. government agencies, academic institutions and others causing disruptions of service, sensitive information leaks and theft of trade secrets and military defense documents. News reports detail accounts of breaches at major companies and even the federal government, resulting in the loss of customers’ private information. Any industry engaged in digital communication and services is potentially vulnerable, and that list includes Wall Street firms, U.S. banks, health care and insurance organizations, and major retailers, among others. On the macro level, the entire U. S. economy potentially could be involved.

At last fall’s Cyber Security Summit in Minneapolis, an FBI Special Agent called situation “a cyber Pearl Harbor attack.” He then introduced InfraGard, a partnership between the FBI and the private sector. In essence, this program enlarges the information sharing and analysis organization (ISAO) model that has sprung up in response to cyberattacks. The program is a non-profit that facilitates cooperation between businesses and the FBI. The InfraGard mission calls for all sectors, private and public, to share voluntary reports on cyber events whenever attacks are detected. The initiative is described as an alliance for national infrastructure protection and any organization is invited to join. Membership is free and voluntary, and applications are confirmed after FBI vetting.

On February 15, 2015, President Obama issued Executive Order 13691. Titled “Promoting Private Sector Cybersecurity Information Sharing Memorandum,” the document advocates broad-scale, real-time attack information sharing across a spectrum of public and private American organizations. Members may come from virtually any American organization that faces exposure to cyberattacks. The memorandum traces the breadth of the order’s mission:

“In order to address cyber threats to public health and safety, national security, and economic security of the United States, private companies, nonprofit organizations, executive departments and agencies (agencies), and other entities must be able to share information related to cybersecurity risks and incidents and collaborate to respond in as close to real time as possible.”

A host of speakers at the Cyber Security Summit endorsed membership in InfraGard as a frontline defense against cyberattack damage to American’s critical infrastructures and key resources. Representatives from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, other federal agencies, Minnesota state cyber security officials and attorneys practicing in related fields urged support for information-sharing via InfraGard.

To learn more about InfraGard, go to InfraGard.org.

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