Open Data Initiative: Providing Fresh Ideas on Securely Sharing Information

August 30, 2013
By Paul Christman and Jamie Manuel

Recently at the AFCEA International Cyber Security Summit in Bethesda, MD, Army Maj. Gen. John A. Davis, Senior Military Advisor for Cyber to the Under Secretary of Defense, said  “Cyber partnerships such as those with the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency and external partnerships such as those with industry, international allies and academia represent a transformation in the way DOD approaches cybersecurity.”
For years, the U.S. Defense Department, not surprisingly, took a “do it alone” posture when it came to sharing information and protecting its networks and communication infrastructures from security attacks.
Now in an interconnected world of reduced budgets and ever-increasing security risks, the Defense Department is fundamentally changing the way it approaches information sharing and cybersecurity. In 2010, it created the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Cybersecurity Information Assurance pilot program with 34 private sector companies to increase and expand the agency’s security posture. Since then, the program has expanded to over 100 companies and now includes an interagency partnership with the Department of Homeland Security to share security-related data and protect 18 critical infrastructure sectors.
This symbiotic relationship between the private sector and government agencies defines a new role for the Defense Department in the global cybersecurity battleground. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security and private sector’s shared responsibility to protect the nation’s critical infrastructures from cyber threats also contributes to the agency’s ability to conduct offensive military operations.
The Defense Department has continued vocally pronouncing its desire to partner in new ways with other federal agencies, academic institutions and the private sector to provide a more holistic approach to protecting mission-critical information and data. As it happens, there is a recent government mandate that might provide some fresh ideas in the way that it can share information with other agencies and the private sector. 
The recent priorities emphasized by the Obama Administration through the Open Data Initiative outline the government’s strong desire to leverage the potential of public-private and agency partnerships to enable open and transparent information sharing between government agencies, the private sector and the public. While “open” may not be a term that sits well with many within the walls of the Pentagon, the initiative has the potential to be a catalyst for agencies in the battle against cyberattacks and to provide a “surge” of necessary information to more effectively protect government networks.
At its core, open data is about agency information sharing and using proven solutions to make data operational and achieve agency missions. This goal should resonate even more so to a Defense Department faced with the enormous challenge of actualizing massive amounts of data from multiple sources both inside and outside agency networks.  Defense agencies can turn to this initiative for new ideas around data identification, classification, and analytics.
In many cases, the sheer size and amount of data that resides within government systems can make data classification a monumental challenge. To make data operational, agencies must apply security classification and analytics to achieve a transparent understanding of the value and intelligence residing in data sets.
Once the security levels of the information are properly identified, it is crucial to deploy rigorous identity and access management (IAM) ensuring sensitive information and national security data remain protected from internal and external threats.
In addition, since the Defense Department utilizes a vast network of private sector contractors to supplement its agency workforce, the Open Data Initiative, with its goal to securely share information with the private sector, can provide new innovative approaches to collaborate with this sector.
The administration’s emphasis on mandating that agencies begin to securely share information is an important step in the collective goal of inter-agency collaboration to protect our nation’s most critical assets. The Defense Department has a unique opportunity to serve as an advisor to civilian agencies creating holistic end-to-end security infrastructures to share data both inside and outside agency networks.
Mr. Paul Christman is responsible for Dell Software’s public sector division, covering the U.S. federal government, state and local governments, and higher education in all 50 states. In this role, he oversees business and channel development, product and marketing functions, and systems consulting.
Jamie Manuel is a senior product advisor at Dell Software, where he is responsible for driving the go-to-market plans for several products within the Quest One Identity Solutions portfolio. With more than nine years’ experience in the software industry, Jamie has worked in both support and management roles for consumer software products and IT compliance and governance solutions.
The views expressed by our guest bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of AFCEA International, SIGNAL Magazine, or any other organization.

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