A United Security Front: Changing Washington’s Miserly Information Sharing Policy

by Matt Klassen on December 28, 2012

There’s no question that 2012 was a landmark year for hackers, with several notable security breaches hitting key private and public sector targets. The only effective response, analysts say, is a government/business partnership, where invaluable security information is shared with those who need it in order to combat these cyber-intruders. The only problem, in contrast to the spirit of this holiday season, is that while Uncle Sam like to receive, it’s not terribly interesting in giving.

The fact of the matter is that much of the private sector views government information collection with a sceptical eye, particularly in this era of enhanced privacy awareness, leading many to question who controls the information the government collects. Further, with the increase in effective cyber-attacks, the consensus is that the government simply doesn’t have the means to effectively combat this growing problem, yet still refuses to employ the help of the private sector.

In response to this notion of the one-way street of information leading to Washington, last week the White House quietly unveiled the “National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding,” (PDF) an attempt to create a unified public/private front against cyber-threats. But will it work, or is this new strategy simply more bureaucratic hot air?

“This National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding (Strategy) aims to strike the proper balance between sharing information with those who need it to keep our country safe and safeguarding it from those who would do us harm,” President Barack Obama’s introduction to the policy states.

“While these two priorities — sharing and safeguarding — are often seen as mutually exclusive, in reality they are mutually reinforcing,” he continued. “This strategy, therefore, emphasizes how strengthening the protection of classified and sensitive information can help to build confidence and trust so that such information can be shared with authorized users.”

In this era of privacy protection such a unified information sharing and protection strategy has been the crucial missing piece in effectively combating cyber-threats. Its clear to many that the government has compiled a great deal of information regarding cyber-attacks, but its lack of resources to combat such threats combined with its refusal to share such information with the private sphere has meant many companies and governmental agencies have needlessly become targets of these increasingly devastating attacks.

According to the new strategy, this current miserly isolationist approach to cyber-crime has come to an end. While that sounds great in theory, many are now questioning the substance behind such a strategy, arguing that we’ve heard this sort of language from Washington before, new plans that are far too often followed by the status quo.

“While the document pays its respects to privacy and civil liberties, it only assures us of the government’s good intentions, not any counterbalancing controls that could protect those rights,” Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst for IT-Harvest, told TechNewsWorld.

In the end, there’s no question that 2013 is shaping up to be yet another year of increasing mobile malware, increased cyber attacks, and an increased need for privacy protection, it’s just a question of whether increased governmental incompetence will once again make the list as well.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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