State CIOs to map info sharing

Facing a rise in hacking and the fear of more terrorist attacks, state chief information officers from across the nation recently discussed how they can better share information, funnel resources, and upgrade and protect their critical infrastructures collectively.

As a result, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers plans to unveil a common blueprint addressing these issues by mid-December. "We need to think the unthinkable and be prepared for the unthinkable," said Rock Regan, NASCIO president and Connecticut CIO.

During a day-and-a-half-long meeting this week at a hotel near Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, more than three dozen state CIOs and other state representatives gathered to discuss protecting critical infrastructure. Such systems include communications, banking, electricity, water, emergency services, oil and gas, and government services. The meeting was closed to the public and the media.

Session topics centered on emergency management and business continuity during crises, security policies and processes, and a common architecture standard for networks that would make information sharing possible.

NASCIO (www.nascio.org) released a 93-page "technical assistance" guide for enterprise architecture so agencies can develop a framework for sharing data.

The association also heard from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich about cyberterrorism; Marianne Swanson with the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Michael Vatis, who directs Dartmouth College's Institute for Security Technology Studies; and Paul Kurtz, director of Critical Infrastructure in the Office of Homeland Security.

Regan said NASCIO would make coordination and communication easier between the 50 state governments and federal Office of Homeland Security. He also said the association would be a conduit for educating state and federal lawmakers on clearly defining technology and security issues in "layman's terms."

Communication and information sharing are top priorities in all levels of government, Regan said, adding that many systems operate on different computing languages and cannot communicate.

He also said that states do not share enough of their best practices on how to handle vulnerabilities and threats. To do this, Regan said some legislation needs to be enacted, but the way the federal government doles out money for projects also has to change. Funding usually is tied to a specific program, but he said that a standard way should be set up to fund security, which should be at the forefront for many state governments.

The NASCIO meeting was the first since its national conference was canceled shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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