Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

Private sector needs way to submit cyber threat tips

The intelligence community has done a remarkable job protecting our nation from an untold number of threats; however, I became aware of a recent incident that suggests perhaps it is time for an overhaul.

A cleared individual who works in the computer industry and on the fringe of the defense industry was contacted by a foreign national from outside the United States who was interested in his advice on acquiring a cyber weapon for a rebel group in a third-world country. Specifically, the foreign national was seeking advice on which cyber weapon the group should acquire and where it could get it.

Concerned about this request, which was not a single contact by the way, the cleared individual sought to disclose this to our intelligence community. Subsequently, the cleared individual contacted a business acquaintance in the military for advice. His military business acquaintance gave him the name and phone number of a friend in a three-letter agency within the intelligence community.

The cleared individual contacted that person to disclose his interaction with the foreign national. The person in the three-letter agency listened to what had taken place and then asked a couple of questions. One of the questions was to determine who cleared individual was, his clearance and for whom he worked. Once the cleared individual disclosed that he worked in the private sector, he was told by the individual from the three-letter agency, “I can’t talk to you.” The cleared individual quickly responded, “You have the intelligence now – deal with it.”

Private-sector organizations and individuals with and without security clearances often come upon important pieces of information. If someone who is close to the military can’t figure out how to get this intelligence into the “system,” what are the chances that critical infrastructure providers – in the private sector – can easily and effectively communicate cyber threat intelligence they uncover?

Posted by Kevin Coleman on Jun 16, 2011 at 9:27 PM

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