Lockheed looks to open standards

The standardized software is intended to boost the sharing of cyber-threat information through automation.

Defense giant Lockheed Martin is casting its latest cybersecurity project -- integrating cyber standards into open-source software -- as a boon for smaller contractors.

On May 8, company officials said the Suricata engine, an intrusion-detection system developed by the government-funded Open Information Security Foundation, is more widely available to the defense industry because it now uses open standards.

The standardized software automates the sharing of information about cyber threats in an effort to boost participation. Machine-to-machine communication within and across organizations has improved in recent years, but a lack of manpower makes the technology particularly important to smaller firms, said Rohan Amin, director of cyber and data analytics at Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions.

Bringing open standards to the Suricata engine will "enhance publicly available and independently created standards that are going to be adopted by industry and also the Defense Department," he said in an interview.

"We'll be able to achieve scale because it's being released and integrated into pre-open-source systems," he added.

Lockheed Martin backs open cybersecurity standards such as Cyber Observable Expression and Structured Threat Information Expression, which uses a protocol the company developed to help security professionals respond to cyber threats.

The company's large presence in the defense industry could spur broad adoption of the Suricata engine, Amin said. "If you look at those thousands of companies in the defense sector, many of them are subcontractors to us on our prime programs."

The rapid exchange of threat information with contractors is a prime tool in the Pentagon's cyber-defense kit. Intra-industry rivalry has been an obstacle in the past, but public signals from defense contractors and DOD indicate that fears of sacrificing proprietary advantage to shared security are subsiding.

"Over the past few years, there's always been a gentle tension in that regard, [but] nothing in my mind that has inhibited effective information sharing," Amin said.

Heartbleed, the OpenSSL flaw that left a wide swath of Internet traffic vulnerable to identity theft, does not point to a broader weakness in open-source software, he added.

"Vulnerabilities are part of software. They happen," Amin said. "We need to improve as a community, but I wouldn't say that it's an issue that is necessarily associated with [open-source] or proprietary software."

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