Commerce seeks industry comment on ways to bolster cybersecurity

Possible strategies to encourage best practices include financial incentives.

The Commerce Department on Wednesday released a notice seeking comment from commercial and academic stakeholders on the challenges private sector organizations face in enhancing their own cybersecurity, and possible strategies, including financial incentives, to encourage best practices.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced plans on Tuesday to release the notice of inquiry at the Symposium on Cybersecurity in the Commercial Space, hosted by the department's National Institute of Standards and Technology.

"The department's Internet Policy Task Force is releasing a formal notice of inquiry that will solicit viewpoints from stakeholders throughout the country on how we can both preserve innovation in the Internet economy and ensure security and confidence in the system," Locke said during a keynote address. "There is of course an endless array of issues that people will have ideas about, and we welcome them."

The notice of inquiry, one in a series from the task force that focuses on Internet issues, seeks comments from the private sector on potential measures to improve cybersecurity practices. The comments will contribute to a report evaluating cybersecurity challenges facing commercial actors and consumers outside the critical infrastructure, identifying ways the department can improve its execution of core cybersecurity responsibilities, and possibly recommending changes in public policy and voluntary steps that industry and consumers can take to augment cybersecurity preparedness. The report, which Commerce will submit to the White House, will influence domestic and international policies and activities related to cybersecurity.

The notice of inquiry requests comment on seven broad areas that influence cybersecurity policy:

"We have to look at ways to [demonstrate] how, by doing this better, your business improves," said White House cyber coordinator Howard Schmidt during a speech at the symposium. "We are a diverse [set of] communities; but together we can make substantive changes to identify threats, remediate those threats, [and] develop the next generation of technologies that takes [those threats] into account."

Philip Reitinger, deputy undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Homeland Security Department, noted during a panel discussion at the symposium that the administration is not seeking a new cybersecurity strategy for the public or private sectors, but rather ways to enhance the progress already made through education, best practices, and regulation.

"Let's not pretend we live in an unregulated system now," he said. "The question is, if this is a national and homeland security issue, where are the right places to set requirements, and how do we make sure the market works effectively? We can't believe that if everything [remains] untouched, the all powerful market will leave us in a better place in five years than we are right now."

Comments on the notice of inquiry are due by Sept. 13.