GSA fleshes out intrusion net plan

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,"

Banks said.

"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 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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