FBI chief: We need to share cybersecurity data in 'machine-time'

Summary:The director of the FBI discusses closing the gap between government and the private sector by sharing data in "machine-time" -- not "human-time."


SAN FRANCISCO---The private sector is the "key" to outsmarting cybercriminals, according to James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Speaking at the 2014 RSA Conference in San Francisco, Comey emphasized that agencies at all levels of the federal government, including the Secret Service and the Department of Defense, are making cybersecurity a top priority -- especially to predict and prevent attacks rather than react.

"We are trying to actively listen to your concerns," Comey assured, acknowledging that many businesses are reluctant to share information or admit data breaches in fear of legal or market repercussions -- or both.

Comey also remarked that all citizens should always remain suspicious government power and remain skeptical.

However, Comey stressed that the FBI (and other government agencies) often need to keep select information underwraps -- sometimes much to the ire of businesses and consumers.

"I don't need to explain to you the cyberthreats that we face. This room is full of experts," Comey told the keynote audience on Wednesday afternoon.

Still, Comey hinted that one starting point is more transparency, asserting we need to find a way to provide assurances and routinely share information at "machine-speed, not human-speed." Effective partnerships are one way to do this, he added.

One example provided by Comey is the FBI's Flash Liaison Alert System, which spits out specific data used in attacks that FBI experts believe will be used again.

Another is BACSS, or Binary Analysis, Characterization, and Storage System, a near real-time triage system for malware identified in FBI investigations worldwide. Comey provided an unclassified version will be rolled out worldwide later this year under the moniker, "Malware Investigator."

However, Comey highlighted a roadblock for cybercrime investigations, noting that what might be criminal in the United States, in regards to malware and intrusion, might not be illegal elsewhere.

"I don't need to explain to you the cyberthreats that we face. This room is full of experts," Comey told the keynote audience on Wednesday afternoon.

At the beginning of his keynote address, Comey noted that he is at the beginning of a decade-long term, affirming that this is one of many appearances he plans to make at the annual RSA security show.

"You are stuck with me for 10 years," Comey concluded. "The FBI is in this for an even longer haul."

Topics: Security, Data Management, Government : US, Legal


Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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