Cyber guidelines are 'required reading' for transition teams

Michael Daniel speaking at the Atlantic Council's

Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel said the guidelines will help the next administration and Congress with some of the "nuts and bolts of what government needs to do."

A forthcoming set of guidelines on cyberthreat information sharing between the private sector and the government will be required reading for presidential transition teams, according to a top White House adviser.

"This is an incredibly important project," said Michael Daniel, White House cybersecurity coordinator, in reference to a 2015 executive order that urges companies to form sector-specific information sharing and analysis organizations.

At a Sept. 1 meeting, Daniel said ISAOs are a fundamental component of President Barack Obama's national cyber defense strategy and should operate alongside the more formalized information sharing and analysis centers (ISACs) for critical infrastructure industries.

The Department of Homeland Security convened the ISAO Standards Organization to develop voluntary guidelines for sharing cyberthreat information between the private sector and government. The group plans to release an initial set of guidelines at the end of the month, with more detailed guidance tentatively slated for release in the second quarter of 2017.

Those guidelines will help the next administration and Congress with some of the "nuts and bolts of what government needs to do," Daniel said.

"We knew that the ISAC model wouldn't work for everyone," he said, adding that ISAOs will help expand information sharing among other non-critical infrastructure companies and organizations.

Greg White, executive director of the ISAO Standards Organization, said almost any group of companies can form an ISAO as long as they have similar concerns about cybersecurity, especially as the internet of things spreads threat vectors exponentially in the coming years.

Similar businesses facing similar sets of threats could band together to share information, as could local or regional governments, local small manufacturers and small companies. The forthcoming guidelines will explain how to organize ISAOs, what kind of information they could share and how.

White said state election organizations "should absolutely be an ISAO," given recent attempts by hackers to access state voter data.

ISAOs' reporting obligations to DHS differ from those of ISACs. Organizations that have balked at being designated as critical infrastructure can use the ISAO structure to share information without the same stringent federal requirements.

The first ISAOs are beginning to emerge. Michael Echols, executive director of the International Association of Certified ISAOs, told FCW that his association has signed up several groups in the past few months. IACI launched in late July to offer experienced help with ISAO operations, and Echols said he left his position as director of DHS' Cyber Program Management Office in early August to join the association.

IACI is not part of the ISAO Standards Organization but is complementary to its efforts, he said. It currently represents seven ISAOs but expects to have 20 in a year, he added.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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