Now that the 60-day review of America’s cyber-security strategy is public, the hard part can begin.
With the challenge of implementing policies to shore up the nation’s cyber-infrastructure lying ahead, some in the security community shared their thoughts on the first steps the Obama administration should take on the path to a more secure Internet.
Although there have been attempts in the past to enact security standards, many were toothless and unenforceable, opined Lumension CEO Pat Clawson. That has to change.
“There has to be some level of authority given to the cyber-security czar to consolidate civilian and government entities as well as the DOD’s [Department of Defense’s] (at some level) existing security state and policies to affect change,” Clawson blogged. “Currently, we do not have a clear understanding [of] where we, as a country, sit today relative to our risk posture, let alone where we’d like to be or what it’ll take to get there. A real-time gap analysis will provide a crystal-clear view into areas of weakness that must be addressed right away versus weaknesses that can be addressed in due time, taking a risk-based approach, so to speak.”
With just its purchasing power alone, the government has the power to effect change, Gartner analyst John Pescatore said. For example, the federal government could require that all its software purchases include clauses mandating vendors show evidence that their software has been run though a commercial application-vulnerability testing service.
“The bottom line is the government using its purchasing power to drive lower vulnerabilities in software and systems, not to focus on trying to collect attack data,” Pescatore said.
The government, he added, should focus more on prevention than detection, as combining the two functions often results in lower security.
“The goals are different-one wants to let the attacks happen to keep track of the opponent, the other just wants the opponent to attack someone else,” Pescatore said. “It is sort of like depending on the guy sitting in a fire tower to prevent forest fires-his approach is to look for smoke, and by then it is too late for prevention.”
Networks, Metrics and Laws
The process has to begin, however, with the government focusing on the security of its networks-as well as private networks controlled by contractors providing services to government-separately from those in the private sector, said Paul Ferguson, an advanced threats researcher at Trend Micro.
Government agency networks as well as contractors providing network services can be made to conform to defined levels of security metrics and can be subjected to regularly scheduled audits, he explained.
“On the privately owned infrastructure front (think ISPs), a more ‘open’ and ongoing ‘public-private’ campaign, cross-pollination of technical skills, shared intelligence, etc., should be sought where the government actively engages in a dialogue with the appropriate stakeholders in an effort to actively encourage more elevated network security postures,” Ferguson said.
Calls for cyber-security partnerships between government and business have been an ongoing refrain of late, and the message was repeated in the White House review.
“With the private sector owning upwards of 85 percent of our critical infrastructure, strengthening the government-industry partnership is essential to our nation’s cyber-security,” said Bob Dix, vice president of government affairs at Juniper Networks.
In addition to cooperation, the review also calls for the government to examine laws addressing cyber-security, with the White House partnering with Congress to ensure that there are adequate laws. That should include reforming FISMA (the Federal Information Security Management Act) as well as enacting federal data breach legislation, said Tiffany Jones, director of Symantec government relations for North America.
“As a corporation, we already have to comply with 47 state data breach and data security laws,” Jones said. “However, there is no federal legislation that requires the same consistency for government agencies. We are asking Congress to pass a national data breach/security bill so that consumers and their data are protected, no matter where their data resides.”