August 28, 2017 By Larry Loeb 2 min read

This week, the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) published a draft report detailing industry and government strategies that will reduce the complex risks associated with critical infrastructure sectors. The report, “Securing Cyber Assets: Addressing Urgent Cyber Threats to Critical Infrastructure,” continued the work of the council, which was first appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2001 to advise the U.S. president on the cybersecurity of critical services.

The Government Is Falling Short

The draft report warned that the country is falling short on its ability to defend critical systems against aggressive cyberattacks. In it, the council asserted that the country is at pre-9/11 cybersecurity and there is only a narrow window of opportunity yet available to coordinate resources.

The NIAC made 11 specific recommendations in the report to shore up the country’s cybersecurity defenses. Among these are the establishment of specific network paths designated for the most critical networks, which would include dark fiber networks for critical control system traffic and reserved spectrum for backup communications during emergencies.

Authors of the report also advised improved threat information sharing between private and government bodies, with the government providing incentives for any hardware upgrades performed.

Private Sector Response to Cybersecurity Advice

SecurityWeek talked to a number of private sector leaders who were less than enthusiastic about the report and its recommendations.

Sqrrl director Matt Zanderigo noted that the NIAC’s recommendations were all voluntary, although they had incentives. He said that the national effect of an attack on critical infrastructure targets would be far greater than the impact on a single operator. Zanderigo believed that this mismatch between local and national risk is a type of market inefficiency that is typically best filled by regulation, not by voluntary efforts.

Chris Roberts, chief security architect at Acalvio, also expressed concern with the recommendations. “Frankly, 11 key recommendations are about five too many,” he told SecurityWeek. He added that private industry needs to share threat information among itself better than it currently does, and the government needs to share its intelligence with the private sector.

In short, the NIAC report didn’t give enough new information. Not only that, but its voluntary recommendations will likely be ignored because they are not practical for most businesses. However, one of its most important takeaways is that a cohesive and collaborative approach from both government and private sectors will be necessary to protect the critical infrastructure that remains vulnerable in the U.S.

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