Treasury kicks off new financial infrastructure protection effort

Treasury kicks off new financial infrastructure protection effort

The Treasury Department is investing $2 million to upgrade its Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center to protect banks and the financial industry from cyberthreats.

Treasury will also provide a liaison between the Homeland Security Department and the financial sector beginning next week, Treasury Secretary John Snow said yesterday.

The financial center has a secure database, analytical tools, and data gathering and distribution capabilities that let authorized individuals submit information'either anonymously or by name'about security threats. The center currently has Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego as its systems contractor.

'This next-generation FS-ISAC will help the financial sector better prepare to face the new physical threats that we have confronted since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the increasing speed and maliciousness of cyberattacks,' Snow said.

Treasury, charged with protecting the nation's financial infrastructure, urged all financial businesses and organizations to become members of the center. President Bill Clinton directed the department to create the center in 1998 to prepare for the Year 2000 rollover.

About 80 financial firms and organizations are members but they account for only 40 percent of the nation's assets and transactions, according to Treasury estimates. The goal of the upgrades is to give the center the ability to better serve the entire financial services sector.

The center's database contains information about 4,300 threats, vulnerabilities and events dating back to 1999. Analysts use the database to establish trends, do research and conduct investigations.

By 2005, the center wants to be capable of alerting 99 percent of financial organizations within an hour of a cyberthreat'such as a worm, virus or terrorist act'that might affect the financial industry. The center would also recommend any necessary action.

Treasury expects the center to improve its technology and information sharing so it can support as many as 30,000 organizations, said Michael Dawson, deputy assistant secretary of Treasury for critical infrastructure protection and compliance policy.

The department also wants the center by 2005 to become a self-sustaining operation through membership and services fees, he said.

On Dec. 15, Treasury will detail an employee to Homeland Security to work in the Information Analysis Directorate Division. The liaison will provide financial input on the division's analysis work and tin turn offer Homeland Security information to the Treasury center, Dawson said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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