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How Wall Street Works With The Feds

Banks and other financial firms learn to share sensitive cybersecurity information with federal agencies.

For the most part, the relationship between the federal government and financial services industry isn't one built on mutual trust. The government has been criticized for being too hands-off, even permissive, but it's hardly a close-knit partnership.

When it comes to cybersecurity, however, the dynamic is different. Financial services companies are sharing information about sensitive IT security issues with the government, and federal agencies are sharing data and intelligence on cybersecurity threats with banks, brokerage firms, and other Wall Street institutions.

The broker of this public-private exchange is the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC). Created in 1999 after a presidential directive called for information sharing between the feds and the private sector, FS-ISAC has a security operations center and a Web portal that its members use to monitor computer threat feeds from a variety of commercial and government sources.

FS-ISAC members use the portal to submit details on cyberattacks they have experienced, including how the attacks were detected and their companies responded. Submissions to the portal, for example, might provide the IP addresses associated with the source of attempted intrusions, and they often center on topics such as fraud activity and malware analysis. This information is shared within the industry, as well as with the Treasury Department, FBI, Secret Service, and Department of Homeland Security.

FS-ISAC isn't a government entity, nor is it overseen by a federal agency. It's a nonprofit owned by its private-sector member companies and run by a board of directors drawn from its membership.

The Web portal serves as a clearinghouse of information such as alerts and bulletins from US-CERT and the Homeland Security and threat feeds from security vendors such as VeriSign. FS-ISAC also uses it to send bulletins with best practices and other information to members.

The portal can be customized to present the alerts and advisories of most interest to members. Dan DeWaal, first VP and chief security officer with Options Clearing Corp. (OCC), the world's largest equity derivatives clearinghouse and a founding member of FS-ISAC, says his information security team monitors threats and system vulnerabilities, while his business continuity team examines feeds that deal with physical and operational issues.

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