recommended reading

U.S. Promises Not to Sue Companies for Discussing Hacks

This image taken from a video posted by Internet hackers, Anonymous on the Greek Justice Ministry web site.

This image taken from a video posted by Internet hackers, Anonymous on the Greek Justice Ministry web site. // Petros Giannakouris/AP File Photo

The Obama administration wants companies to work together to battle hackers.

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission issued a formal policy statement Thursday, assuring businesses that they will not face federal lawsuits for sharing information with each other about attacks on their computer systems.

Companies have been nervous that discussing information about hackers could run afoul of antitrust laws, which restrict the ability of businesses to coordinate with each other. The laws are intended to prevent companies from stifling competition and inflating prices.

But the policy statement issued Thursday said sharing cybersecurity information such as incident reports, malicious code, or alerts is "highly unlikely" to violate the antitrust laws. Officials said that companies with questions about any particular business practice can contact the federal agencies for guidance.

Speaking at a press conference, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the massive data breach at Target is "just another reminder of how far-reaching the cyberthreat has become." He said the administration's guidance "lets everyone know that antitrust concerns should not get in the way of sharing cybersecurity information."

Bill Baer, the head of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, said the policy statement is an "antitrust no-brainer," and he explained that "as long as companies don't discuss competitive information like pricing and output when sharing cybersecurity information, they're OK."

He acknowledged that the statement won't affect private antitrust lawsuits, but he noted that the courts often defer to the legal interpretations of the antitrust agencies.

Rand Beers, a White House adviser, argued that it is critical that companies continually assess their networks and share information about the latest attacks. Otherwise, a single virus can quickly spread through entire industries, he warned.

The officials said the guidance will help companies respond to vulnerabilities, such as the recently discovered "Heartbleed" bug, which has undermined security on much of the Web.

The policy statement is the Obama administration's latest effort to bolster cybersecurity, which officials say is one of the most serious national security issues.

President Obama urged Congress to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation in 2012 that would have set security standards for critical infrastructure (such as banks and power companies) and encouraged cybersecurity information sharing. Republicans blocked the bill, warning it would impose unnecessary regulations on businesses.

Obama issued an executive order in early 2013 that created voluntary guidelines to help critical infrastructure operators protect their systems. But the information-sharing portion of the legislation had remained largely unaddressed.

Obama administration officials insisted Thursday that Congress must still pass cybersecurity legislation. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez urged lawmakers to empower her agency to fine companies for inadequate data security, and to set a national standard requiring companies to notify consumers in the event of a data breach.

Cole said legislation is still needed to allow the government and private sector to share information with each other. He also pushed for tougher penalties for hackers and expanded authority to seize servers and Internet domains.

Threatwatch Alert

Accidentally leaked credentials / Misplaced data / Stolen credentials

Internet-Connected Teddy Bears Don’t Keep Secrets

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.