White House Official Calls on Industry and Agencies to Share More Cyber Threat Info

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Agencies should also start taking more tips from each other, according to an Office of Management and Budget cyber expert.

Government agencies are usually behind the curve when it comes to understanding the latest cybersecurity threats and solutions, and they need the tech industry to help keep them in the loop, according to a White House cyber official.

As the White House looks to standardize cyber capabilities across government, both agencies and the private sector must to do a better job sharing data on potential threats amongst themselves, said Joshua Moses, director of cybersecurity performance and risk management at the Office of Management and Budget.

He also said the government will be slow to adopt new protections if companies don’t frequently update feds on the new capabilities they develop.

“The open source [community] recognizes that you’re all in it together, that there’s benefit to be gained by sharing that information. That’s frankly what we’re asking all agencies to do as well,” Moses said Tuesday at Red Hat’s OPEN FIRST conference.

“It also means [industry] need[s] to get involved ... sharing information early and often,” he added. "If we don’t know that information, then we can’t disseminate it, so we’re going to continue to have our lunch eaten.”

In May, OMB reported the vast majority of federal agencies don’t know how or when they’re being targeted by hackers, with some three-quarters of agencies’ cybersecurity programs rated as “at risk” or “at high risk.”

Researchers found only 27 percent of agencies can detect and investigate attempts to access large amounts of their data and only 40 percent can detect when a user copies or removes massive encrypted data caches. Furthermore, when breaches did occur, agencies could only identify the method of attack about 60 percent of the time, according to the report.

Moses partly attributed the poor marks to the lack of uniform cybersecurity tools across agencies and the government’s scant use of open source technology. He said OMB is looking for ways to streamline the intake and processing of network data, and in the past, industry input has led to “tremendous success.”

“The encouragement there is certainly to share, share often, share amongst yourselves,” Moses said. “We spend a lot of time playing defense here, and frankly we want our agencies to free up their resources … [to] deliver on their core mission.”