DHS, industry to try fusion centers for classified data swap

Program would use centers to share secret-level info on cyber threats to critical infrastructure

The Homeland Security Department plans to start a pilot program that would use state and local intelligence fusion centers to pass secret-level information on cyber threats to critical infrastructure to some industry officials with security clearances, a DHS official said today.

Under the program, the Cybersecurity Partners Local Access Program (CPLAP), industry officials with the necessary credentials would be able to go to a local fusion center to receive the classified information, said Jenny Menna, director of critical infrastructure cyber protection and awareness at DHS’ National Cyber Security Division.

“We’ve heard from a lot of our private-sector partners that travel budgets are being cut, so this will allow people who are outside the Beltway to go to their local fusion center and get that information, and it will also help build that relationship between the fusion centers and the critical infrastructure and key resource partners within their area,” Menna said.


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States and municipalities own and run fusion centers that use information technology to share homeland security-related information between officials from different levels of government. DHS serves as the lead federal agency for the centers and spent about $350 million on them between fiscal years 2004 and 2008.

DHS is also in charge of leading the coordination of infrastructure protection between federal agencies, state and local authorities, and the private sector. A majority the country’s critical infrastructure is privately owned.

Meanwhile, DHS also works with the private sector to bolster cybersecurity.

In addition to convenience, the CPLAP program would allow industry officials to build relationships with their local fusion centers, and five fusion centers have agreed to participate in the planned pilot program that will focus on cybersecurity related to all critical infrastructure sectors, Menna said. However, she said if the pilot programs go well, CPLAP could be used to share data related to other hazards.

Menna made the comments at an event in Washington hosted by Juniper Networks and presented by Federal Computer Week.

 

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 Virginia

Instead of building a new, complex and top-heavy bureaucracy to address threats from bad guys in caves and garages, DHS may want to take a lesson from the highly successful program operated by Defense Intelligence Agency in which intelligence assessments are created by analysts worldwide, shared in a controlled XML format and posted to the Library of National Intelligence for access by authorized users and organizations. The DIA system focuses on the data itself, avoids complex infrastructure mandates and entities, using instead the currently available secure networks within DoD. The use of fusion centers makes sense, but not if the result is additional layers of complexity being piled on already overtaxed local law enforcement organizations... who are not terribly good at the kind of often hazy threats being described. If DHS re-invents the wheel on this matter, we will have yet more evidence that bureaucracies just don't deal well with difficult and complex threats.

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