We have recently talked at length about the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, a bill designed to help protect America’s critical infrastructures. Well, the Act is not the only government sponsored initiative aimed at improving America’s cybersecurity efforts.
InfraGard, an FBI-sponsored volunteer program founded in 1996, was designed to build public-private partnerships to help improve security while also offering training for security events.
This FBI-sponsored organization got its start in 1996 when the FBI called upon local IT specialists to help with a cybersecurtiy case. This is widely considered the beginning of public-private partnerships.
“A piece of classified information has little value unless you have the context that goes with it,” said Sheri Donahue, a member of the InfraGard National Board of Directors. “[The FBI] realized the benefits of professional networking. It also helped the private sector understand and appreciate the security threats that impact multiple sectors.”
The Evolution of InfraGard
After 9/11, InfraGard expanded its scope to include an all-hazards approach, including all of the critical infrastructure sectors.
“[Cybersecurity] is still going to be a huge part of the program — the fact is it cuts across into the energy sector and into transportation and everything relies on computers now,” said Supervisory Special Agent Doug Dvorak, the program manager for InfraGard from FBI Headquarters. “So we do have a strong cyberidentity, but we are really working to expand across all walks of the critical infrastructure.”
This evolution of InfraGard is incredibly important, especially when you consider that 90% of the entire U.S. critical infrastructure is privately owned. These public-private partnerships not only benefit the government agencies that rely on them, but these relationships benefit the private companied, as well. This is accomplished on one of two ways:
- These relationships improve the information flow to the private sector on threats to be aware of.
- The relationships offer the private sector a way share sensitive security information.
“The core of the program is still the information sharing and talking about what people need to help themselves protect against threats and vulnerabilities for critical incidents and then also for us to enhance our investigations,” said Dvorak.
As InfraGard membership continues to rise, it’s also evolving. Dvorak said the FBI is constantly examining members’ affiliation with critical infrastructure to see how they can be leveraged more effectively and how the FBI can provide more value to them.
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InfraGard Increases U.S. Security One Relationship at a Time