Manhattan DA opens international cyber threat sharing nonprofit

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is using funds from one of the largest bank settlements to found an international cybersecurity threat sharing organization, the office announced Wednesday.

The Global Cybersecurity Alliance will be developed with $15 million of the $447 million PNB Paribas paid last year to settle claims that it flouted U.S. sanctions. The nonprofit is designed to allow governments and companies to share cyber threat data in real time.

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Calling the alliance a “voluntary clearinghouse,” Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance said that the group will help to ease the flow of information across a currently balkanized security environment.

“The cyber landscape is dotted with entities that are either for-profit or divided by region or industry,” Vance said in a statement. “The Global Cyber Alliance has no such restrictions or limitations, crossing borders and sectors in an effort to map, understand, and thwart cybercrime.”

London's police department and the nonprofit Center for Internet Security will jointly spearhead the initiative with Vance’s office. The group says it has attracted Aetna, American Express, Barclays Bank, Citibank, U.S. Bank and others as members.

The formation of the alliance comes as law enforcement agencies and lawmakers are increasingly frustrated with what many see as a lack of cooperation from private industry when it comes to sharing cyber threats.

A cybersecurity bill stalled in Congress would create incentives for companies to share information with the government, but the tech industry and privacy-minded legislators have criticized the bill for being ineffective and a vehicle for inappropriate government surveillance.

Many critics don’t trust the government to adequately protect sensitive consumer information that it may obtain through sharing information about online threats. Several of 22 proposed amendments to the legislation address this concern, including one to funnel all information through the Department of Homeland Security, seen as having the government’s best data privacy procedures.

Other amendments would require companies to inspect and strip personal details from cyber threat data, raise the standard for removing sensitive data and require a process to notify people whose personal information may have been inappropriately shared.

The technology industry in some cases has created its own platforms for threat sharing. Facebook announced in August that its ThreatExchange platform had more than 90 members. Federal agencies are currently not permitted to participate.

“At this time, government agencies are not participating in ThreatExchange and will not, until there is legislation that clearly defines how information from sharing platforms can be used by these parties,” Mark Hammell, manager of Facebook’s threat infrastructure team, told The Christian Science Monitor.

The Global Cybersecurity Alliance will collect only voluntarily provided data that identifies attackers’ information, like location or infrastructure, and the threats associated with them. It will not collect any personally-identifiable information “to protect its members and the public at large,” Center for Internet Security CEO Jane Holl Lute said in a statement.

The alliance will be headquartered in New York and London.