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DHS Quietly Delivers Hacker Footprints to Industry

scyther5/Shutterstock.com

A little-known website sitting behind a firewall has been exchanging sensitive hack intelligence between companies and agencies at a rate of one new threat hallmark per hour, a top Homeland Security Department official said.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Collaboration Program, launched in 2011, virtually convenes about 70 critical industry and analytics organizations – think energy companies -- as well as federal departments. The result is bulletins provided in formats that computers can "read" so they can apply the appropriate protections. And containment recommendations are pumped out in plain text that people can read. 

"It enables us to identify those threats or organizations" that are a danger, said Roberta Stempfley, DHS acting assistant secretary of cybersecurity and communications. "We have shared through this program more than 26 unique indicators a day. You wouldn't think that that sounds like a large number. But it's unique indicators in a day. That's more than one an hour." 

She was speaking at a Washington, DC cybersecurity event hosted by FedScoop. 

"Those are things that aren't typically widely publicized activities," Stempfley said. "They are generally unclassified indicators."

Even as data breaches become more extensive, industries, such as major retailers, struggle to talk about the threats they are seeing. The reasons for the silence include fears about liability, government snooping and injured reputations.

On Wednesday, Stempfley acknowledged this tension among potential victims is a problem.

"The biggest challenge to collaboration today is to handle it honestly -- we each come to the conversation with your issues and you hold it close, she said “And collaboration becomes a negotiation. It's difficult to collaborate when you are negotiating." 

(Image via scyther5/Shutterstock.com)

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