New US cyberthreat center will fill information gap, official says

It's designed to coordinate efforts and support policymakers, government agencies and law enforcement

Lisa Monaco, assistant to President Barack Obama for homeland security and counterterrorism, announces a new cyberthreat intelligence center Tuesday.

Lisa Monaco, assistant to President Barack Obama for homeland security and counterterrorism, announces a new cyberthreat intelligence center Tuesday.

The U.S. government needs a new cyberthreat analysis center because no single agency is responsible for producing that type of assessment and sharing that information across the government, according to a senior advisor to President Barack Obama.

The new U.S. Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, or CTIIC, will fill government information gaps and support policymakers, network defenders, agencies and law enforcement "with timely intelligence about the latest cyberthreats and threat actors,", said Lisa Monaco, assistant to Obama for homeland security and counterterrorism.

The CTIIC, announced Tuesday, won't take over the cybersecurity responsibilities of other agencies. It's meant to be a coordination agency to make the U.S. government "more effective as a whole in responding to cyberthreats," Monaco said during a speech at the Wilson Center, a think tank.

Monaco gave few details that weren't in earlier press reports, but she said the new center will be modeled after the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. to coordinate information about terrorist threats. The new cyberthreat center, an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will not collect new cyberthreat intelligence, but will analyze and pull together information from other agencies.

With a growing list of high-profile U.S. targets in recent months, including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Home Depot, Target and the U.S. Postal Service, the government needs a new approach to combating cyberthreats, which are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and severity, she said.

"We are at a transformational moment in the evolution of the cyberthreat," she said. "The actions we take today -- and those we fail to take -- will determine whether cyberspace remains a great national asset or increasingly becomes a strategic liability, an economic and national security strength, or a source of vulnerability."

Monaco called on Congress to pass a package of new cybersecurity proposals from Obama, including a national data breach notification law and a law to encourage private businesses to share information about cyberthreats in exchange for protections from customer lawsuits.

The U.S. government also needs to improve its ability to disrupt, respond to and recover from attacks, she said. The Obama administration will use the "full strength" of the U.S. government, including military action if necessary, to defend against cyberattacks, she said.

Some critics have already questioned the need for the new center, saying it adds a level of bureaucracy to the government's cybersecurity efforts, former U.S. Representative Jane Harman, president and CEO of the Wilson Center, said during a question-and-answer session following Monaco's speech.

The CTIIC won't take cybersecurity responsibilities away from other agencies, Monaco answered. "This is filling a critical gap," she said. "What we need ... is critical, rapid, coordinated intelligence to feed those operations. It's not duplicative at all."

One CEO of a cybersecurity vendor said new efforts to share information about cyberthreats would be welcome, but will not solve every problem. Insider threats to organizations are especially difficult to address, said Alan Kessler, CEO of Vormetric.

"While additional information might offer insight into trending threats in near-real-time, it is far from a silver bullet," Kessler said by email. "Real-world data suggests perimeters are easily breached and adversaries move within networks, often undetected and unabated, as they seek and successfully ex-filtrate sensitive information."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Tags U.S. White HouseJane HarmansecurityOffice of the Director of National IntelligenceAlan KesslerWIlson CentergovernmentLisa Monacodata protectionvormetric

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