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8/16/2010
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NASA In Position To Foster Global Cybersecurity

Symantec's CTO, speaking at the first-ever NASA IT Summit, said the U.S. needs to collaborate more closely with other nations to protect critical infrastructure worldwide.




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Among federal agencies, NASA is uniquely well-positioned to help the U.S. cooperate globally on cybersecurity, the CTO of security vendor Symantec said Monday.

Speaking at the first-ever NASA IT Summit, Mark Bregman, Chief Technology Officer, Symantec, said that collaboration between the U.S. and other nations to protect critical IT infrastructure around the world is sorely lacking.

"Diplomacy on worldwide cybersecurity cooperation is not working well at the tactical level," he said. "Technology is developing at such a rapid pace that policymakers are playing a catch-up game. There's an urgent need for diplomacy to kick starter international cooperation on cybersecurity."

While multiple U.S. agencies are working to come up with standards for addressing cybersecurity, NASA, which historically has worked successfully with other nations on space projects, can pave the way for creating a safer IT environment globally. Bregman said.

"I think NASA plays a unique role as a very visible and open agency that can play unique role to encourage global cooperation in the world of cyber security," he said.

Bregman is not alone in noting that little has been done so far to work across nations to secure critical infrastructure. In fact, even lawmakers in the U.S. have yet to pass a comprehensive cybersecurity plan for how to handle the issue stateside, though, as he pointed out, multiple bills are being bandied about in Congress.

A recent report by the General Accountability Office (GAO) released earlier this month found that because of the number of federal organizations involved in shaping cybersecurity policy and processes, the United States is challenged even at home to unify its policies and message on cybersecurity before it can even begin to work with other nations to secure networks.

Bregman also outlined some challenges he sees to the task at hand. Among them are basic metrics all nations can use to gauge their cybersecurity efforts, including the way security is reviewed, managed and implemented. Education and awareness and a clear definition about what cybersecurity is also are needed, he said.

Bregman pointed to a survey that found most Americans think they've never used cloud computing services, yet most admitted to regularly using web-based email.

Response like this shows "a disconnect between their understanding of the cloud and what they read in the newspaper," and shows that many people aren't even aware of the security threat that exists when they store personal information online.

Lawmakers in the U.S. also need to agree on a common definition of cybersecurity and begin to think beyond the boundaries of state, local or even national boundaries for global collaboration to be effective, Bregman said.

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles the U.S. faces on the issue is apathy from other nations that don't have a vested interest in working together on cybersecurity.

"Many nations have no real incentive to collaborate with the U.S.," he said. To tackle this problem, federal agencies must provide incentives -- particularly to developing nations that are a breeding ground for hackers -- to show how cooperating on cybersecurity benefits them.

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