Federal agencies are balancing evolving security requirements while defending against persistent threats, and the increased use of cyber threat intelligence and information sharing is helping government organizations make faster, more informed decisions to combat malicious activity, according to a National Science Foundation (NSF) technology official.

Chezian Sivagnanam, chief enterprise architect for NSF, explained that the historical model for security in the Federal government has been focused on protecting physical space – such as  headquarters and data centers. But that model has led to threat information ending up in silos, and in today’s world, the old paradigm has outlived its usefulness, Sivagnanam said.

Sharing threat intelligence amounts to a proactive security measure, preventing data breaches and saving agencies the financial costs of cleaning up incidents, Sivagnanam said during MeriTalk’s Cyber Central event on May 19 in Washington, D.C.

“Its purpose is to give organizations an in-depth understanding of possible risks to their infrastructure, and it helps them figure out the actions that need to be taken to protect their enterprise,” Sivagnanam said.

Julie Starnes, vice president for Public Sector at Recorded Future, agreed with Sivagnanam’s assessment of threat intelligence being a pivotal tool in combating cyber threats. She added that the privatization of this information helps no one, and said she’s pleased to see that the Federal government is making significant strides in sharing threat intelligence.

“Today we have public figures speaking out about the importance of sharing that information. I think it’s important for not just Federal agencies, but that everyday Americans understand cybersecurity and the best practices they need to adopt to secure their personal or business networks,” Starnes said.

Sharing threat intelligence, particularly among Federal agencies, has become a critical element in combatting malicious threats. President Biden’s May 2021 Cyber Executive Order puts a strong focus on sharing that intelligence, and how critical it is to improving the nation’s cybersecurity posture.

On Capitol Hill, Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., introduced legislation earlier this year that would ensure sharing of cybersecurity information between operational cyber staff in the Executive Branch and the members of the Senate and House.

Sivagnanam also explained that with the increased adoption of cloud environments and the shift to remote and hybrid environments, it’s has become critical for cybersecurity to centered on  people and data, not physical spaces.

“There are two important assets in cybersecurity: people and data. On the data front we have technology and tools available to us in the Federal space to put in safeguards that will protect our data,” Sivagnanam said. “But the people in our networks remain the weakest link. We need to educate our workforce to ensure they understand the best practices that they need to follow to protect our data.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.