DHS awards $11M to set cyber-sharing standards

DHS awards $11M to set cyber-sharing standards

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday awarded an $11 million grant to the University of Texas at San Antonio to serve as the standards-setting body for new cyber information-sharing groups.

A February executive order called for the creation of Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAOs). The new entities are intended to facilitate cyber threat sharing and collaboration between the private sector and the government.

“The University of Texas at San Antonio will work with existing information sharing organizations, owners and operators of critical infrastructure, federal agencies, and other public and private sector stakeholders to identify a common set of voluntary standards or guidelines for the creation and functioning of ISAOs,” Andy Ozment, Homeland Security's assistant secretary of cybersecurity and communications, said in a statement.

The new information-sharing entities are intended to broaden the exchange of cybersecurity data beyond industry-specific hubs known as Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs).

“In encouraging the rapid creation of ISAOs, the Executive Order expands information sharing by encouraging the formation of communities that share information not just within a sector but across a region or in response to a specific emerging cyber threat,” Ozment said.

Although the administration is pushing forward with its data-sharing agenda, industry groups and lawmakers continue to wrestle over the appropriate level of collaboration between private industry and government.

Some maintain that increased cooperation between the two sectors is important to safeguard national security, but tech companies have pushed back, concerned that they will be exposed to lawsuits or regulatory action.

Privacy advocates also say that data sharing is merely another way for an already-intrusive government to collect more private data on its citizens.

A stalled cybersecurity bill that may or may not see Senate floor time this fall also seeks to smooth communication lines between the feds and private industry, although it faces fierce debate. Senate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell (R-Ky.) has lined up 22 amendments with wide-ranging goals for a vote.

The White House publicly supported the bill, titled the Cybersecurity Information Act, this spring.