• United States

Vendors can’t wait for homeland security

Jul 15, 20033 mins

Domestic security experts and representatives from technology companies Tuesday announced an industry coalition to protect the nation’s infrastructure of mainframe computers from cyber attacks.

Organizers cited a loss in momentum on the part of the federal government in securing the nation’s critical IT infrastructure as a reason for forming the group.

The coalition will be headed by Vanguard Integrity Professionals, a security software company based in Las Vegas, and is made up of a number of small systems integrators, application development companies and software companies.

Speaking about the coalition at a press conference in Orlando, Fla., Vanguard CEO Ronn Bailey said that the nation was in a “critical period of time,” but that the public-private partnership between the federal government and cybersecurity companies lacked momentum and was moving too slowly to provide protection against a “9/11 category or greater” cyberattack.

Companies must work together to merge disparate technologies into comprehensive solutions that address the cybersecurity problem rather than wait for the public sector to organize a response, Bailey said.

The product of the Vanguard coalition is not a formal technology partnership program, but a loose alliance to produce a “patchwork quilt” of products that work together to address cybersecurity threats, he said.

Coalition companies cover three core areas: infrastructure, enterprise enablement and knowledge expertise, Bailey said.

Coalition services might include code inserted into an operating system, application or device to harden its security, free evaluations of security hardware for organizations, or training, he said.

Pricing for services offered by alliance members will be worked out between member companies and their customers, and the coalition will not share in the benefits of any business, according to Bailey.

In the short term, the coalition will focus on attracting new members and does not have any specific goals for the next three to six months, he said.

In Florida to help unveil the new coalition, former White House Special Advisor for Cyberspace Security Richard Clarke said during the press conference that, in the absence of a strong public-private partnership, companies need to cooperate and produce a “seamless network” that protects critical infrastructure.

While sounding a familiar alarm about the dangers to the U.S. economy that are posed by cyberattacks, Clarke said that in the short term, the formation of the new Department of Homeland Security has hampered the federal government’s ability to counter such threats.

Cyberterrorism experts from the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) within the FBI who were supposed to relocate to the DHS, decided instead to transfer into other organizations within the FBI, leaving “open billets” for the DHS to fill, Clarke said.

At the same time, the federal government eliminated Clarke’s old position, meaning there is no high-level government official who focuses on cyber issues with access to senior officials.

“Today you have somebody five levels down in the hierarchy,” he said, referring to the decision to situate the National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) within the DHS’s Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate.

The government should move fast to fill empty positions and raise the stature of the cybersecurity chief, Clarke said.