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Military Formalizes Defense Contractor Cybersecurity Program

Defense and Homeland Security Departments are expanding and formalizing the Defense Industrial Base program, an information-sharing effort aimed at helping defense contractors secure their networks.

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The military and the Department of Homeland Security are formalizing and widening a program to share classified information about cyber threats with select defense contractors and their network providers. The departments announced Friday that the program will soon be available to all defense contractors.

The effort, known as the Defense Industrial Base ("DIB") program, is a voluntary information-sharing program in which the Department of Defense shares "unclassified indicators and related, classified contextual information" about cyber-attacks and threats with defense contractors. In exchange, defense contractors report known intrusions and can receive forensics analysis and damage assessments from the government after those attacks. In an optional part of the program, the DIB Enhanced Cybersecurity Services, the government shares additional classified threat and technical data with defense contractors and Internet service providers.

[ Cybersecurity tops the list of IT priorities for agency CIOs. Read more at Security Top Concern Of Federal CIOs. ]

Defense contractors are increasingly becoming highly sought-after hacking targets. For example, hackers said to have been based in China hacked into defense contractor networks several years ago, stealing terabytes of blueprints and other technical data on the pricy Joint Strike Fighter jet.

More recently, Lockheed Martin admitted last March that it was the target of a "significant and tenacious" attack in which hackers exploited the company’s VPN access system, and Northrop Grumman and L-3 Communications were reportedly targets of similar attacks. Hacktivist groups, meanwhile, have targeted Booz Allen Hamilton and an FBI contractor, among others. "Increased dependence on Internet solutions has exposed sensitive but unclassified information stored on corporate systems to malicious probes, theft, and attacks," Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense, said in a statement. "This expanded partnership between DoD and the defense industrial base will help reduce the risk of intrusions on our systems."

The program launched as a pilot last June with a handful of contractors and Internet service providers, among them reportedly Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, CSC, and SAIC on the contractor side, and Verizon and AT&T on the service provider side. The pilot, which was originally slated to last only through the summer of 2011, grew from 20 participants last August to about 200 this March. The DIB program is one of a number of information-sharing programs underway in government. For example, the DHS shares cyber-intelligence with public and private-sector organizations through its "fusion centers" program and US-CERT. Congress is also working on a number of cybersecurity information-sharing bills, among them the hotly debated Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which has raised the ire of some civil liberties groups but the backing of many in the tech industry.

Hacktivist and cybercriminal threats concern IT teams most, our first Federal Government Cybersecurity Survey reveals. Here's how they're fighting back. Also in the new, all-digital Top Federal IT Threats issue of InformqtionWeek Government: Why federal efforts to cut IT costs don't go far enough, and how the State Department is enhancing security. (Free registration required.)

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Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/16/2012 | 1:22:42 AM
re: Military Formalizes Defense Contractor Cybersecurity Program
It's about damn time.

Using DoD and DHS resources to protect information that could be vital to national security interests simply makes sense.

The more information, and information gathering techniques, that we can use to protect the data and systems that secure this country, the better. If this wasn't a vital component of national security, I doubt that the Air Force would have created their Cyber Command and included Cyberspace Superiority to their mission statement.

More information, better information into the right hands can enable better decision making processes and improve our national security. That's true for standard intelligence and for Cyber Intelligence.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
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