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Information Sharing: Can Government Work Together Securely?

June 26, 2007

Summary

Increasing emphasis on interaction among various levels and agencies creates the need for government agencies to find ways to share more information, while still maintaining a secure environment.

Introduction

Increasing emphasis on interaction among various levels and agencies creates the need for government agencies to find ways to share more information, while still maintaining a secure environment. Historically, the government has had no formal process in place for sharing information – but it is becoming unavoidable. Since 2001, the White House and Congress have sent at least 21 directives telling federal agencies to improve information sharing. As all levels of government continue to ratchet up their interaction, information will be more susceptible to sophisticated outside threats. As risk continues to increase, now is the time for agencies to implement policies and technology designed to keep information secure as it flows across government.

Why share?

The 9/11 Commission report stated that our nation’s ability to win the War on Terror depends upon adoption of a “need-to-share” culture. According to many top government officials, better collaboration among government agencies is crucial to preventing further terrorist attacks on the U.S.

On a broader scale, collaboration facilitates a faster response from government when disaster strikes, because the agencies will be able to continue communicating and working together in a time of need. To frame and evangelize the government’s approach to sharing information, the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) was created in December 2004 when Congress passed and the President signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). The ISE is an approach – not a place or an information system. It describes the policies, processes/protocols, and technology that enables information sharing among Federal, State, local, tribal, and private sector entities, as well as foreign partners.

Who’s sharing?

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), as well as the Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security departments, are all currently breaking new ground with regards to information sharing in government. The ISE has also placed the onus upon federal agencies to be more collaborative with their state and local colleagues. Top agency officials have said a service-oriented architecture approach to technology will provide the flexible infrastructure that is needed for better data distribution.

In May 2007, the DOD established its “DoD Information Sharing Strategy”. The Strategy envisions a future state where “transparent, open, agile, timely, and relevant information sharing occurs to promote freedom of maneuverability across a trusted information environment.” The ODNI is currently developing a strategy that is compatible with DOD’s and ISE’s. “ODNI wants to move from a need-to-know culture to one of access,” said Michael Johnson, ODNI’s deputy associate director of national intelligence.

Proactive security

In any information sharing endeavor, information is susceptible to outside threats. Consequently, a proactive stance towards security and identifying vulnerabilities is crucial. Trying to identify when or where a future attack may originate and what its target is a Herculean task. At the very least it’s a full-time job, leaving little time for other IT activities, let alone risk mitigation.

Symantec DeepSight Early Warning Services can help with solutions customized for the precise specifications of a government IT environment. The services can help agencies take timely action against today’s threats, as well as stay ahead of tomorrow’s vulnerabilities and malicious code.

DeepSight Services provide customized alerts based on intelligence from the Symantec Global Intelligence Network. This network tracks over 10,000 products, providing early access to analyses of emerging threats, which can help proactively manage security and mitigate risks before they can cause harm. Here are some other benefits government agencies will realize:
  • Better continuity of operations. Security intelligence helps agencies make more informed decisions and respond effectively to vulnerabilities and malicious code. Advance notification allows rapid response in order to prevent downtime.
  • Improved efficiency. Information delivered automatically to people who can act upon it increases the productivity of an IT team, and helps prioritize resources. Less time is spent tracking potential threats, and more time is spent focused on real threats.

Conclusion

As government agencies of all levels collaborate on a more regular basis, vulnerabilities to government information will increase. Any exploit can have a major impact on the security of our nation. In order to maintain a secure information sharing environment, taking a proactive stance towards security is important. Not only will DeepSight Early Warning Services help protect shared information, it can lead to better use of government resources and give IT staff time to focus on other important tasks.

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