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Someone today asked me about CISA.  The truth is, I’ve stopped paying attention. Everyone, just shut up and pass something so we can move on.  But, I do have perspective that might be relevant: I’ve spent the past 12 years in infosec, including doing threat analysis, have spend the past 8-ish years in Critical Infrastructure, have been a government operational incident responder to the private sector with access to super secret info sauce, have helped build a strategic government pubic/private partnership program, worked with a number of ISACS, and have worked in a non-profit ISAO-like environment.  Here’s what I think:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far too close to here, a bunch of techies, not in sufficient control of the business and other environmental factors to influence the cybersecurity exposure business was creating or suffering from,  said: “We need better, actionable information to succeed!”.  This was both sexy-tech driven and a last-resort.  If the business was leaving the doors and windows open, the “defenders” (heh) needed to know as much about their adversary as they could.

At the same time, businesses, finding they were becoming more and more on the hook for serious adversary conflict  (as opposed to automated worms) tried to offload their responsibilities to the government.  Lack of “Information Sharing” was a really convenient roadblock to partnership. “Hey, look, gov, we’d really like to help, but you’ve got all this awesome intel that you won’t share, how can WE do anything? YOU should!”.

Government, having its own interests, was also looking for more data because, essentially, most of theirs was limited or sucked or wasn’t useable.  At the end of the day, cyber conflict is occurring on private infrastructure – the government infrastructure either being tangential to the discussion at hand, handled internally, or a peer infrastructure the private critical infrastructure (i.e: The internet is the internet is the internet and its all a common geography of conflict).   So they said (and, for what it’s worth, largely truthfully): “We can’t send you information if you don’t send US information! How can we know what’s actionable for you?” The fact that they might have their own uses for the information was tangential to this roadblock/truth.

This was *exactly* what industry hoped would happen!  Industry, having done this in the past with other non-cyber information sharing, knew this would stymie everyone for awhile: Competitive disadvantages, risk of prosecution for what they shared, inability of government to release classified information effectively, and the biggie – risk of regulation!

So at this point, we had:

Techies going: “Mmmm..Info Share! Sexy! We want more info! Wait, actually reduce exposure? That’s no fun, and besides, that’s really out of our control – business people suck at making decisions”

Industry: “Sweeeeet. This techie cry for Info Sharing is cool! It’s something that looks like low hanging fruit that we can use to block cyber interaction with the government indefinitely”

Gov: “Hmm. Cyber is scary and we have little to no visibility and we’re on the hook to help without (for the most part) regulation, we need information to better conduct conflict and apply game theory to international relations! We need to get industry to trust us and give us all their bits!”

Given the long history of the government ROYALLY screwing up trust relations with industry, this stood for years as a happy-medium-quagmire with everyone taking pot shots at each other from across entrenched positions.

But wait!  Suddenly it actually got serious – the MEDIA started running away with cyber? Can those Chinese kids take out the power grid? OMG! (Note: I actually think the risks from cyber conflict are potentially VERY severe, but these are not the SAME risks as the ones Media got hold of).  And suddenly, congress, who KNOWS where it’s risks come from – bad political coverage by the media forcing uneducated people to vote or clamor for some MEME-OF-THE-DAY – got involved.

Congress: “Gov, Industry, Techies? What do we need to do CYBER better?!!?!?”

All: “Informaaaatttiion Shaaaarrrriiinnnnggg…”

And now, Congress has it, and everyone has lost COMPLETE sight of the fact that, at best, information sharing is a MATURE and DIFFICULT capability that results from mature organizational awareness and decision making and will, again at best, help catch the EXCEPTIONS that are not handled by mature organizational decision making, and will do little to NOTHING to reduce cybersecurity risk exposure or to reduce the escalating cost and complexity of the problem over the time.  Instead, it will help better execute/conduct conflict in cyberspace, satisfy techies who want to play more complicated games and solve more interesting problems, and leave the governments involved without any real position change in their ability to apply game theory strategically to cyberspace.

(NOTE ABOUT THE BELOW: This post was more about the history of information sharing driving these types of bills. My comments below are much less informed)

Does CISA trample on rights and privacy? Maaaaayyybee – Probably not…this is an old discussion that wasn’t completely initiated by government.  It may have secondary cascading effects, but I don’t believe that’s the primary motivation for it (or even A motivation).

Do I want them to pass it? Well, the government has shown it is PERFECTLY WILLING to try and get this information by other means, so….are we really losing anything? If nothing else, if we pass AN information sharing bill, at least there’s an increased possibility everyone will be able to finally share the Information that the Info Sharing Emperor Has No Clothes?


With all the blah blah blah going on about CISPA, I’ve managed to keep my mouth shut about it for awhile, but it turns out I do have something to contribute to the dialogue (or, I think I do :) ).

I’m not going to review the language of the bill – I’m sure it’s terrible. Most cyber legislation is. It can’t not be. They all go too far, lack clarity of language, introduce unforeseen escalations of government rights, etc.

There’s no need to go over the givens. :)

So, then, what? Well, after I finally read CISPA and the surrounding reporting, what I noticed was that very few people seem to understand that the bill didn’t come out of nowhere. The language in it, the motivations behind it, the structure of the bill, etc…all of it… completely reflects the information sharing discussion that’s been going on between those engaged in public/private partnership cyber security activities for years.  It’s not just a random congressional fart.  Anyone who has been part of that discussion should recognize the bill as an old …if not friend…sparring partner.

For those who don’t know, there is, in this space, an institutionalized gridlock in the debate about information sharing.  CISPA clearly is an attempt to remedy this very, very specific gridlock. It’s not a general cyber security bill. It’s not even a general information sharing bill.. It is designed to address the perspective that the government has information it won’t share, that clearances have been roadblocks, and that legal ambiguities have prevented sharing.

Now, while I happen to think that some of these are in fact roadblocks, I also know CISPA doesn’t touch the heart of what the most severe and core information sharing problems are. But, unfortunately, I’m in the minority. A great number of otherwise intelligent people do believe in what it’s trying to accomplish, typically terrible language notwithstanding.

Maybe no one else finds this worth noting, but I at least thought it was unusual that the structure of the existing conversation is so clearly reflected in a piece of legislation…

UPDATE: Please see this link for the most current agenda. The one in the post is outdated:

So, one of the things I get to do as part of my job which has been pretty exciting is to put together the agenda for our 2nd annual Cyber Security in Transportation summit. It’s happening November 1 & 2 this year in the DC area and is going to be full of outstanding talks for all ages and backgrounds. ;) The summit is aimed at executives and decision makers from within the transportation industry who might be effected by cyber security or whos actions may affect the security of their organizations. We’re covering general cyber security themes as well as transportation specific ones. If you’re in the transportation sector – pipeline, aviation, freight rail, mass transit, highway & motor carrier – and want to attend, let me know at

The tentative agenda currently looks like this:

Summit Schedule (Click for Larger)















Industry Case Studies

Four discussions of transportation-specific cyber security concerns and perspectives: Incidents, Best Practices that worked, Lessons Learned, Soap Box Scenarios , etc.

Public/Private Partnership

Sector Collaboration

Based on outcomes of this summer’s Transportation Cyber Security Exercise


Panel: Maritime

Representatives of the Maritime mode will discuss  topics of common interest




General Cyber Security Awareness Talks & Panels

Panel: Offensive Perspectives

Non-technical perspectives from well-known offensive researchers

Panel: Threats in the News

Current threats in the news such as APT, Stuxnet, and Anonymous


Panel: Executive Perspectives

Concerns and solutions in today’s environments


Panel: Risk Management

Cybersecurity impacts on business risk management


Verizon Data Breach Incident Report

An empirical overview of current trends

Social Networking

Ups, downs, concerns and impacts of social networking on cyber security

Users and Awareness

Exploration of the most critical aspect of cyber security: Users

 Verizon Data Breach Incident Report: Bryan Sartin/Verizon Business   
Industry Case Study 1: Boeing Mike Garrett/Boeing   
Panel: Offensive Perspectives: Kevin Finisterre Ruben Santamarta  Mark Fabro
Social Media: Patrick Gray/CISCO   
Panel: Maritime Stakeholders  (USCG & Industry)   
Panel: Threats in the News: Scot Terban (Anonymous) Liam O Murchu / Symantec (Stuxnet)  (APT) 
Industry Case Study 2: Transportation Control Systems Darryl Song/Volpe   
Keynote:  Vice Admiral Parker/ USCG   
Panel: Executive Perspectives: Amit Yoran/Netwitness Gus Hunt/CTO of CIA  
Sector Collaboration   
Users & Awareness Mike Murray/MAD Security      
Panel: Risk Management Jack Johnson/PWC Russell Thomas  Jack Whitsitt

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