Share and share alike

GCN Insider | Products & trends that affect the way government uses technology

Cisco Systems, EMC, Microsoft and three smaller technology vendors have introduced a platform built on their products that facilitates the secure sharing of sensitive information among federal agencies. The Secure Information Sharing Architecture (SISA) was created to work across previously isolated systems.

The architecture, which addresses a problem that's confounded the government for years, 'has the potential of eliminating the technological barriers to information sharing,' because it gives agencies a simple and effective way to enforce policy requirements for sharing sensitive data, said Grace Mastalli, former director of the information sharing and collaboration office at the Homeland Security Department. The architecture lets government customers create secure virtual private networks that give multiple users and communities various levels of access to sensitive files stored in separate protected systems, the companies said.

The architecture addresses concerns over allowing access to sensitive data by giving administrators the ability to define staggered levels of access rights based on multiple classification schemes, Mastalli said. 'There are huge amounts of sensitive information that need to be controlled in a secure environment but that also need to be shared.' Public health officials in a proposed SISA-enabled environment, for instance, could develop better coordinated responses to pandemics by monitoring confidential data in the databases maintained by various government agencies and private-sector organizations.

Each of the six partners in the SISA Alliance brought its own skills and technologies to the table, according to the companies. Cisco contributed the physical network protection component, EMC provided information management and security software, and Microsoft added identity management tools, client and network operating systems, and a controlled collaboration framework. Liquid Machines supplied software that extends Microsoft's Digital Rights Management technology to 310 file types and applications, Swan Island Networks provided expertise in the design and operation of information-sharing systems, and Titus Labs contributed information-labeling and classification solutions used to specify the protection levels applied to information.

The alliance will be managed by Addx, a provider of information and management sciences services.

To implement the architecture, government agencies first need equipment and software from the alliance partners in their networks, although they don't necessarily need to buy products from all six alliance members, said Eric Rosenkranz, industry manager at Microsoft's Public Sector business unit.

About the Authors

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.


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