When hackers attacked Sony Pictures Entertainment last November, cyberthreat teams at the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigations, and National Security Agency gathered to brief White House officials. All had evidence implicating North Korea, but they varied in their certainty, and no one bore responsibility for developing a comprehensive analysis. In the end, Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, assigned the FBI to the role of coordinator, according to The Washington Post–a strategy that arguably backfired when the federal agency at first failed to convince security experts that its evidence and analysis were sound.
The White House has no interest in repeating that experience. Instead, administration officials are forming a new federal agency that will gather and assess cyberthreat intelligence with a mandate similar to that of the National Counterterrorism Center.
“The cyberthreat is one of the greatest threats we face, and policymakers and operators will benefit from having a rapid source of intelligence,” Monaco told the Post. “It will help ensure that we have the same integrated, all-tools approach to the cyberthreat that we have developed to combat terrorism.”
Later today Monaco will preview plans for the agency, named the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, in a speech at a nonpartisan research and policy center in Washington. The agency will launch with 50 staff members and an annual budget of $35 million.
The news follows last month’s White House proposal for legislation that would offer liability protection for companies that share data, such as IP addresses and routing information, with federal agencies looking to prevent or combat cyberattacks. Security experts greeted that news with cautious optimism.
“Government action in general trails what’s happening in the technology industry. But I think it’s incredibly positive to be able to see this sort of effort and to hear the word cybersecurity coming out of the mouth of the president of the U.S.,” Shuman Ghosemajumder, vice president of product management for Shape Security, said at CIO Network, a Wall Street Journal conference. “It creates a much more positive environment to be able to invest in security and to elevate consciousness of security at every level of an organization. And, as we’ve seen over the past year, this is something that really is now a board-level discussion that companies are having.”
Indeed, boards are discussing cyberthreats–and spending big on insurance and preventative measures. Whether they are willing to share the data they capture with Washington when threats emerge remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Cisco, and an Israeli spymaster have just launched a new cybersecurity incubator called Team8 Ventures that will build new security startups, drawing on the skills of veterans of Israel’s cyberwar efforts. Read more about the new incubator here.
[via The Washington Post]