An important theme within the conversation at RSA Conference 2010 has been finding ways for the government and private industry to better collaborate when it comes to fighting cyberthreats.Part of the collaborative effort between government and the private sector must include increased transparency through data sharing. With more shared data about attack trends, mitigation techniques, and security strategies that worked (as well as those that did not) everyone should be able to more effectively protect their systems. "We must all partner together to make sure cybersecurity is secure," said White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, Howard Schmidt yesterday in his keynote address at the RSA Conference.
For the government's part in increasing transparency, Schmidt announced the availability of unclassified portions of the Obama administration's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI). InformationWeek's Thomas Claburn covered the event in this story that ran yesterday.
The unclassified CNCI document, available here, goes into some depth explaining the nation's effort to harden public and private networks.
During his presentation Schmidt also noted several times how "collective knowledge" is the most powerful tool we have available to us to combat cyberattacks. And another security expert I had the pleasure to speak with at the conference, retired Secret Service agent Robert Rodriguez, would certainly agree with Schmidt's sentiment. As chairman and founder of the Security Innovation Network (SINET), Rodriguez is currently working to help government agencies, system integrators and private industry to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and Washington D.C.
An important part of filing that gap is making it easier for security vendors be able to reach the government market. "We need to capture the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation occurring in Silicon Valley and the IT security community and help the U.S. government become early adopters of the best-in-class technologies," Rodriguez said.
Helping the government find and eventually embrace that technology, as well as educating the IT security community on the varying needs of the U.S. government is one of the primary goals of SINET's IT Security Entrepreneur's Forum to be held at Stanford University March 16 and 17.
While leveraging the best security technologies is going to be a part of the solution to the current IT security crises we face - it isn't going to solve the problem by itself.
During the RSA Cryptographers' Panel, former National Security Agency technical director of information assurance Brian Snow urged IT vendors to build more secure and sustainable systems. "The cure is to ask vendors to start building more quality into their implementations," Snow said. "Building quality systems can be a commercial advantage. Don't just sit there until you see an attack underway to fix a problem."
It's a message Snow has advocated for some time. This [.pdf] is from a paper Snow published a number of years ago:
When will we be secure? Nobody knows for sure but it cannot happen before commercial security products and services possess not only enough functionality to satisfy customers' stated needs, but also sufficient assurance of quality, reliability, safety, and appropriateness for use. Such assurances are lacking in most of today's commercial security products and services.
Unfortunately, it's true of most of today's IT applications - not just security products. And it's way past time for this sorry condition to improve. And it's one that requires collaboration to fix, too. Because an effort nothing short of government agencies and large commercial IT buyers forcing vendors to build security assurance into their products - before acquiring them- will affect the change we need.