The General Services Administration is moving forward with its plans to build a governmentwide system to monitor agency networks for cyberattacks, but it is taking a slightly different tack than originally announced.
The General Services Administration is moving forward with its plans to
build a governmentwide system to monitor agency networks for cyberattacks,
but it is taking a slightly different tack than originally announced.
GSA last week released the draft request for proposals for the Federal
Intrusion Detection Network (FIDNet) but said the document, while bringing
it one big step closer to an acquisition, has plenty of room for change.
"We're trying to make sure that anything we structure makes business
sense," said Darwyn Banks, FIDNet program manager at GSA.
FIDNet is intended to gather and correlate information about suspected
attacks from intrusion-detection system sensors already in place at civilian
agencies. When announcing the project last summer, GSA said it hoped to
work with security vendors to develop a solution based on emerging technology
because existing tools would not meet the agency's requirements.
GSA still wants vendors to develop that technology, but the agency said
it hopes to take advantage of a new commercial security offering known as
managed security services.
Central to FIDNet is the ability to notice an attack against multiple
agencies while it is happening, making it possible to defend against the
attack. Most agencies simply do not have enough expertise in-house to manage
a response strategy, and FIDNet is designed to automate that function.
The multisystem concept behind FIDNet will still require vendors to
take their technology beyond its current capabilities. Intrusion-detection
systems can read the output only from their own sensors, and the FIDNet
system will need to read reports from the many sensors that agencies have
installed across their networks.
GSA is still looking for a system to collect and correlate that information,
but the agency also wants to hire one or more vendors to monitor the system
and feed it to the FIDNet program office. The vendor may work off-site or
within the FIDNet office. "We're no longer looking at a government-only
solution. This is the same thing that's happening in the dot-com world,"
"It's certainly reflective of where the industry is going, [which is toward]
managed security services rather than going out and hiring lots of bodies,"
said Cal Shintani, vice president of business development at Trident Data
Systems Inc. "And the FIDNet concept has really changed. Now it really is
just an intrusion-detection alert system and most of the action happens
at the agencies."
With the new approach, the FIDNet program office will rely on the vendors
to monitor and report on the information gleaned from intrusion-detection
systems already in place at civilian agencies. Using the reports that agencies
decide to send on to the FIDNet system, the program office, housed at GSA's
Federal Computer Incident Response Capability (FedCIRC), will then be able
to diagnose in real time whether a concerted, governmentwide attack is occurring.
FedCIRC, working with the National Infrastructure Protection Center's
Analysis and Warnings Unit, will help any agencies under attack and issue
alerts. FedCIRC also will forward information collected by FIDNet to the
FBI if necessary.
But the almost $12 million request for FIDNet, like many of the other
security programs proposed by the president in his National Plan for Information
Systems Protection, is having problems making it through appropriations
committees in Congress.
So although the original plan was to offer the basic level of service
to agencies free of charge, the draft RFP is written in such a way that
it will be easy to make the program a fee-for-service offering, with a small
fee to enable operations of the FIDNet program office, Banks said.
GSA plans to have all comments back by June 23 and start developing
the final RFP for release early next fiscal year, Banks said.
Industry is the primary intended audience, but GSA has also notified
agencies, Congress and privacy organizations of the draft's release because
all of those groups have been following the program closely, he said.
"We're expecting to get comments from a variety of sources," Banks said.
"All CIOs were notified, the privacy groups, congressional staffers — everyone
who has an interest."
FIDNet first caught the attention of the non-vendor community last July
when a newspaper erroneously reported that the program would monitor both
federal and private-sector networks. Since then, privacy groups and members
of Congress have been paying close attention and speaking out for and against
FIDNet at hearings.at your service
GSA envisions FIDNet offering agencies three levels of security services:
Standard: Monitor intrusion-detection sensor output, provide analysis and
Plus: Monitor intrusion-detection sensor output, provide analysis and
response and provide reports.
Full: Monitor intrusion-detection sensor output, provide reports and
manage security devices for the customer.
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