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Sharing key to combating threats
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2001 03:37:48 -0500 (CDT)


By Diane Frank 
Oct. 24, 2001

As awareness about the importance of sharing information about cyber
and physical threats grows following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,
the General Accounting Office last week released a report on the best
practices of leading organizations in the public and private sectors.

The report is in response to a request in May from Sen. Robert Bennett
(R-Utah), a key supporter of critical infrastructure protection issues
and an advocate for sharing cybersecurity information between the
government and private sector. Bennett and other members of Congress
have introduced bills this year to promote such sharing.

GAO reviewed 11 organizations, including the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, the Federal Computer Incident Response Center
(FedCIRC), the Joint Task Force-Computer Network Operations (JTF-CNO),
and the North American Electric Reliability Council. FedCIRC serves as
the central warning, analysis and response organization for civilian
agencies, and the JTF-CNO provides that service for the Defense

All of these organizations form relationships with members to collect
information on security incidents, analyze potential future weaknesses
and issue alerts on vulnerabilities and attacks.

The GAO report, and past reviews in related areas, found that
information sharing and coordination are "central to producing
comprehensive and practical approaches and solutions to combating
computer-based threats." But few agencies have formed such mechanisms,
and those that have are still working to become entirely successful,
according to GAO.

From their experience, GAO outlined several key success factors:

* Developing trust between participants over time through personal

* Establishing effective and secure communications.

* Getting the support of senior managers at member organizations on
  the importance of sharing such potentially sensitive information.

* Ensuring continuity of leadership within the organization to
  maintain focus.

* Providing identifiable benefits to keep members involved.

The most difficult challenge is organizations' natural reluctance to
share information on vulnerabilities, GAO reported.

This challenge can be immediately addressed through the development of
clear, written agreements on information usage and sharing, GAO wrote.
And that reluctance is reduced over time as members become more
familiar with one other and others' perspectives and pass on their
positive experiences to new members, according to the report.

GAO report: "Information Sharing: Practices That Can Benefit Critical
Infrastructure Protection" (PDF)


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