[ISN] Feds Making Plans for Security Clearinghouse
isn at c4i.org
Mon Apr 26 02:33:15 EDT 2004
By Dennis Fisher
April 25, 2004
The federal government is developing plans for a secure network
operations center for all security information flowing to and from the
The security operations center would be separate from other such
facilities at federal agencies and would not necessarily be concerned
with monitoring the operations of production government networks.
Instead, the SOC would be a clearinghouse that gathers and analyzes
data from the private sector, mainly the Information Sharing and
Analysis Centers in several major vertical industries.
The new facility will likely be located in northern Virginia,
according to sources familiar with the plans. The plans are part of
the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to engage the private
sector more fully in the process of defending the nation's critical
infrastructure. This is a key concern for the department because the
lion's share of the infrastructure is owned privately; the government
must rely on ISPs, carriers and large enterprises for help in securing
The SOC would be run jointly by personnel from the DHS and a civilian
contractor that would help build the facility. The physical location
of the SOC will probably be in a government-owned building, said
sources close to the plan. DHS officials said that even though there
are less formal information-sharing efforts between government and
private industry, there still is a need for a more structured program.
"We're trying to operationalize the public/private partnership. It's
been largely intangible up till now," said Amit Yoran, director of the
National Cyber Security Division at DHS, in an interview here last
week. "We want the rules of the road to be clear on this stuff. The
private sector genuinely wants to make progress on this. I think, as
we get more considerate of the private sector in terms of the FOIA
[Freedom of Information Act] exemption, things will come along."
One of the carrots the government has used to entice enterprises into
sharing more data on attacks, vulnerabilities and other security
concerns is an exemption to the FOIA for information pertaining to
critical infrastructure protection. This exemption guarantees that
data the companies turn over won't be subject to FOIA requests by news
The FOIA exemption for security information is a key part of the
government's plans going forward. In the past, most enterprises and
other organizations have been reluctant to hand over information about
security breaches, virus attacks or other incidents they've been
involved with for fear that word might leak to the press and erode
customer confidence in their business. Yoran and other government
officials said they hope that the FOIA protection will allay these
fears and produce more valuable data.
Still, skepticism remains over the government's efforts in general and
the plans for the SOC specifically. Relations between some of the
ISACs and the DHS, based in Washington, and other agencies have been
strained at times, and some security experts involved with the ISACs
said there's not much reason to think the establishment of the SOC
will affect any of that.
"The information flows one way right now: from us to them. I don't see
how this is going to change that," said one member of the Financial
Services ISAC who requested anonymity. "You want to replace one thing
that doesn't really work with another one? Whatever. I can't think of
a single time that they've known about something before we did. The
only real value is for them."
The ISACs, which were first built in 2000, are designed to allow
organizations in industries such as health care, financial services
and IT to exchange information about ongoing security issues. Most are
run independently, although some, including the FS-ISAC, are run by
Officials said they hope to have plans for the SOC finalized soon and
intend to fund the initiative out of the current fiscal year's budget,
which runs out Sept. 30.
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