CTIIC chief: We're up and running

The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center came out of a simple idea: As with terrorism, the intelligence community needs to produce a holistic, rather than anecdotal, picture of cyber threats.  

The absence of such a portal for cyber-threat intelligence came into stark relief in the aftermath of the November 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. There was no one-stop shop the White House could turn to when looking to lay blame for that hack.

In an interview six months after being named CTIIC Director, Tonya Ugoretz said her team is providing a much-needed pipeline of cyber-threat intelligence to policymakers.

CTIIC produces a threat intelligence summary about twice a week to contextualize recent cyber-threat reporting from intelligence agencies. The report is designed to make sense to a non-technical audience, she said.

"That product and other analytic products that we produce are directly informing policy discussions [and] interagency meetings," Ugoretz said in a recent interview.

For Ugoretz, a career FBI intelligence analyst, a big part of CTIIC's mission is explaining a technical field to policymakers who "increasingly need to be cognizant of the role that cyber plays in regional and other issues," as she put it.

To that end, CTIIC incorporates the views of regional or sector-specific analysts, depending on the context. "Attribution is as much an art as a science," Ugoretz said. "Often it's not the technical indicators that are going to solve the question for you."

The U.S. government has not publicly attributed the cyberattack on the Ukrainian power grid last December, which cut power for some 225,000 people, to any group or sponsor. Ugoretz said the lack of attribution was a function of the information available on the attack and the level of confidence the intelligence community had in assigning blame. Ukraine's state security service has blamed Russia.

CTIIC initiated a multiagency exercise that explored different scenarios for who carried out the Ukraine hack, Ugoretz added.

Greasing the inter-agency wheels

CTIIC had a messy beginning. House lawmakers were irked that they didn't get a heads-up on its creation, and Department of Homeland Security officials were reportedly worried that the new agency might encroach on their own work.

Many months later, however, Ugoretz said there isn't any noticeable inter-agency friction. "I can't think of an instance where any of our personnel have been parochial," she said.

The structure of CTIIC seems designed to preclude turf wars. In addition to her FBI experience, Ugoretz has also done stints at the CIA, DHS, and National Intelligence Council. Her deputy came from the National Security Agency, while CTIIC's research chief is a CIA hand.

CTIIC entered a crowded space that includes multiple cyber centers across federal government. To avoid duplication, CTIIC's advisory board includes the heads of other cyber centers, including DHS' National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, and U.S. Cyber Command's Joint Operations Center.

CTIIC's success will hinge in part on being on the same wavelength as other cyber centers, Ugoretz said, adding, "I don't want CTIIC to be sitting here in a vacuum" at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

She offered a maxim for standing up new bureaucratic entities, as the ODNI that houses CTIIC was 11 short years ago: "You need to show value right away and you need to keep showing it" in order to justify resources allocated.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group