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Feds, ISPs Team On Cybersecurity For Defense Contractors

The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security are providing cyber threat intelligence to 25 defense contractors and their Internet service providers.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are working with Internet service providers to provide stronger cybersecurity protection for defense contractors, a DOD official said this week.

The DOD is sharing classified information about cyber threats with defense contractors and their network providers through an experimental program called the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Cyber Pilot, Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn said in a speech in Paris. A transcript of his comments is available online.

Through the pilot--which began last week--the agencies also work with defense contractors to use the threat information in a practical way to shore up their networks, he said.

"By furnishing network administrators with this threat intelligence, we will be able to strengthen the existing cyber defenses at defense companies," Lynn said.

While the pilot is a collaborative effort between the DOD and DHS, the National Security Agency is providing technical advice and cyber security information upon request by the DOD, DOD spokesperson April Cunningham said in an email.

She declined to name the ISPs or defense contractors participating in the pilot, but said that there are about 25 of the latter involved. A published report by the Washington Post identifies the ISPs as AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink, and some of the contractors--of which the report said there are 15--as Lockheed Martin, CSC, SAIC and Northrop Grumman.

The move is yet another example of the Obama administration's willingness to forge partnerships between the public and private sector to secure critical U.S. networks and infrastructure, which mainly are owned, managed, or controlled by entities outside the public sector.

The federal government currently has a number of early efforts under way to share intelligence information around cyber threats between the public and private sectors to improve cybersecurity. Through one pilot program launched last year, the DHS shares threat intelligence information with some private-sector CIOs and cyber security officers if it will protect their networks.

Still, the federal government has struggled to achieve the right balance and to disseminate information in a way that satisfies all stakeholders.

Lynn said the pilot "breaks new grounds on several fronts" in its breakdown of barriers between the public and private sector for the good of cybersecurity.

However, he acknowledged the feds still "have a long way to go and a lot of work to do" to fully secure critical infrastructure, and he said he believes the DIB Cyber Pilot could be a framework in the future for similar work with other industry stakeholders.

"By establishing a lawful and effective framework for the government to help operators of one critical infrastructure sector defend their networks, we hope the DIB Cyber Pilot can be the beginning of something bigger," Lynn said. "It could serve as a model that can be transported to other critical infrastructure sectors."

What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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