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RSA Conference: How ready are governments for proper information sharing?

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Governments do still not fully understand the threat of the cyber world and there is a distinct lack of information sharing capabilities.

According to Amit Yoran, senior vice president and general manager of RSA's security management and compliance business unit, cyber security is understood by agencies that have some role to play, but government needs to work with the private sector more on how it can engage better.

Yoran, who was the director of the National Cyber Security Division within the United States Department of Homeland Security between 2003 and 2004, praised the work of Richard Clarke, who served as special advisor to President George W. Bush on cyber security, but said that cyber security is seen as a serious issue now but needs to be looked at more broadly.

Talking to SC Magazine at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, he said: “The US government has done a good job so far, but we need to define the security requirements for technology and being the largest provisioner of technology, it can do a significant evaluation of functionality and make this available to the private sector where they are baked into the product.

“There is a risk with transparency and accountability and it can be quite helpful, but when you get into general technologies, you should be thoughtful on what role you are protecting.”

Yoran made the argument that the government's role in protecting information is imperfect, but the bigger challenge is collaboration across national boundaries, "as we are unable to see what is happening in the digital world".

“This is a good argument for a national focal point for government activity in cyber, but while we need cyber guys, they need to be coordinated at the national level.”

Yoran said that he was all for information sharing as "in the US it is like apple pie, for you it is fish and chips", but he said that there is likely an attitude of 'why is it a problem' and until the problem is understood, the government could become an epicentre of information sharing and of malware techniques.

There is also the issue of the responsibility of computer emergency readiness teams (Certs), which Yoran said should share information, but asked if something happened in China, would it be reported to the Chinese Cert?

He said: “With both reporting and finding, there has got to be cooperation in the private sector and a common discipline for attacks and by sharing maybe the governments will help us in the same way.”

He also said that companies get insight into threats and what is going on, but part of the problem is that the issues are not the responsibility of the government to solve.

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