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Obama cybersecurity order mandates better information sharing

DHS gets ready to open up to private sector

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RSA 2013 President Obama's executive order on cybersecurity means security officers at critical infrastructure companies will get greater clearances from the government to access its information, says a Department of Homeland Security honcho.

The "unprecedented" executive order, which Obama revealed during his State of the Union address, will mean the government will give the private sector much more information about the threat landscape, DHS deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity Mark Weatherford said in a speech at the Cloud Security Summit in San Francisco on Monday.

The DHS is going to give more people at critical infrastructure companies security clearances so they can access greater amounts of government information about the "hundreds of thousands" of threats that the government profiles, he said.

This will let the government brief them on some of the "sensitive" threats it sees "that we can't sanitize and issue more broadly," Weatherford said.

It will give these companies information on attack signatures, he said, as well as the inside scoop on some effective countermeasures that the government has developed.

Along with this, the exec order means the DHS will work on its own internal bureaucratic processes to make sure it can tell the private sector about more of the threats about which it is informed, rather than letting them all disappear into a classified bucket that never gets shared with anyone.

"When I was in the private sector, that was the one thing I wanted more than anything else – if you have threat information that affects me, I need to know it," Weatherford said.

Besides sharing more information, Weatherford revealed that the DHS will work closely with the National Institute for Science and Technology (NIST) to co-develop standards with the private industry to help companies stay secure.

"We are going to establish this framework that is voluntary, that will provide a baseline so people can aim for something they don't have now," he said.

Words like "voluntary" when combined with security fill The Register with concern. Although the executive order sounds very impressive, the onus will be on companies to follow best security practice to get all of this to work – something that even top tech companies seem to find quite difficult. ®

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