University Says Government's Pretty Terrible At Sharing Cyberthreat Information
from the welcome-to-Threat-Club dept
Multiple government agencies have gone all-in on cybersecurity. CISA was pushed through late last year — dumped into the back pages of a “must pass” omnibus spending bill. Just like that, the government expanded its surveillance power and cleared its cyberthreat inboxes to make way for all the information non-governmental entities might want to share with it. It promised to share right back — making this all equitable — but no one really believed the government would give as much as it would take.
Right on cue, a university heavily involved in scientific research says the government really isn’t interested in sharing information.
Virginia Tech is no stranger to hackers. Randy Marchany, the school’s chief information security officer, says he assumes the attackers are already inside the networks. The university’s attack space includes power generation networks, campus police databases, research files, student records and retail payment systems, among other sensitive digital operations, he said.
Marchany lamented what he says has been a growing trend during the last couple of years of the government restricting information about ongoing hack campaigns — information that could help his staff identify the suspicious activity they already glimpse on systems.
“The federal government now has this tendency to try to put a classified label on everything, and so I have to sometimes go to a dark room and have people hand me information that I can only look at,” he said.
The government wants to have its secrecy and eat its portion of the “sharing” cake, too. Oh, it may be “sharing” in the sense that it’s not completely withholding some information pertinent to its partners’ interests. But it doesn’t share information. It holds onto the information, delivers it only on its terms, and any entities it does decide to share info with should consider themselves lucky its hasn’t decided the information is so “sensitive” as to be withheld completely.
Not only will sharing partners need to pass intrusive background checks and obtain security clearances, but they’ll also need to have superhuman retention skills, seeing as they aren’t allowed to make copies or view information for any longer than the government feels is necessary.
Marchany notes that information he’s been allowed to glance at in underlit rooms has been useful in correlating unusual events witnessed on Virginia Tech’s end, but still feels the government could do a much better job disseminating information.
This is what tech companies and other entities feared: that the government’s idea of sharing was mostly one-way. Private entities would be considered too insecure to trust with the government’s threat info, but are expected to pass along anything of interest to a government which has proven multiple times it’s far less secure than its sharing partners.