Feds, industry join forces on info security

NEW YORKā€”The Commerce Department on Wednesday introduced a new government/industry partnership that will help spread information security best practices throughout the private sector and will improve the overall security of U.S. critical infrastructure.

The Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security is the latest initiative under Presidential Decision Directive 63, which requires agencies to protect their critical information systems and infrastructures against cyberattack. PDD 63 has led to the creation of government security organizations, including the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office and the National Infrastructure Protection Center.

But much of the nation's infrastructure is built and run by industry and not controlled by government, so the private sector must take an active roll in the protection, said Commerce Secretary William Daley.

"We are, based on the President's directive, extremely concerned about the nation's infrastructure...but the federal government alone can't protect it; it's in the hands of the private sector," he said.

There are 65 companies and associations from almost every industry segment involved in the partnership. Part of the mission of the partnership will be to encourage participation by more small businesses and state and local government groups and to enhance information sharing on security knowledge and expertise, Daley said.

"This cross-sector work is very important," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, a partnership member organization. "Information security has not yet permeated the consciousness of boardrooms and suites across the country."

The partnership has set five issues to focus on: education; work force development; awareness and training; best practices; and research and development. Another issue that the partnership plans to study is globalization. Although the Clinton administration mainly is concerned about U.S. national security issues, many of the companies in the partnership are global, Miller said.

The structure of the partnership is still under development, but Commerce will be serving in an advisory and enabling role, providing personnel, advice and other resources when needed, not regulation or federal requirements, Daley said. And as the leaders for the group, industry sees this as a way to forestall potential legislation or regulation from Congress, Miller said.

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