RSA: APAC govts should strive to share threat info

While challenges lay in the vast differences in the region over politics, privacy and data protection laws, adopting private sector models such as non-disclosure agreements could help promote sharing and mutual benefits.

SINGAPORE--Governments can help in the fight against cybercrime by facilitating information sharing, but this practice comes with challenges of differing cultures and laws, especially in Asia-Pacific.

Art Coviello, executive vice president of EMC and executive chairman of RSA. (credit: RSA)

According to Art Coviello, executive vice president of EMC and executive chairman of RSA, governments can unite the security industry domestically and internationally, not just in terms of international cooperation but also facilitating information sharing.

This can be done when governments act as a central clearing house to exchange information speedily about current threats and attacks, Coviello explained, speaking at RSA Conference Asia-Pacific 2013 held here Wednesday.

Earlier at the same conference in San Francisco in February this year, Coviello had pointed out big data will transform the way that enterprises architect and manage security , as it will provide a wealth of information that can be sliced, diced, and analyzed to fuel intelligence-based security systems.

However, big data applications are only as good as the amount and quality of the data, so the sharing of external feeds of intelligence will have a "force multiplier effect".

Sharing threat intelligence brings challenges

Yet, sharing of intelligence is not without its challenges, especially in this region, Coviello observed, during a media briefing.

"If we lived in a homogenous world, it will be a lot easier for us to cooperate, [but we do not]," he said.

Some macro difficulties include the physical geography because of the size of this region compared to the others, he noted. Others include the differences in language, culture, laws and foreign policies due to the large number of countries in Asia-Pacific, he added.

There is also the political challenges such as privacy and confidentiality which both governments and citizens are concerned with, especially when privacy and data protection laws have not be firmed up in the region, he explained.

The biggest issue however is the level of understanding the government has about the cybersecurity landscape, he pointed out, noting even though governments are aware they are just beginning to get a understanding of the problem.

NDAs could help promote sharing

His view was reinforced by Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore's senior minister of state for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, who also spoke at the conference keynote session, acknowledging it is not always easy facilitating or growing partnerships as trust and shared ownerships are critical factors for the success of such collaboration.

Masagos Zulkifli
Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore's senior minister of state for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs. (credit: PAP)

One way to break walls impeding trust and create architectures engendering confidence between the sectors is through non-disclosure agreements, Zulkifli pointed out.

InfraGard for example, promotes the sharing of intelligence, vulnerabilities and solutions between public, private and people sectors through such mutual agreements, he said. InfraGard is a non-profit group serving as a private-partner partnership between the private sector and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for information sharing and analysis.

Coviello pointed out what governments do not realize is that the scope of awareness and understanding can be increased with information sharing.

He noted that at the earlier RSA Conference in San Francisco, an award was presented to the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) for their work in sharing threat information among their members who are U.S. banks. At the same conference, banks from other continents such as Asia and Europe were invited to meet the organization, and the U.S. government subsequently approved the FS-ISAC sharing of information with the international bank in a bilateral way.

If governments can follow the private sector's model of information sharing , it would be "really cool", Coviello noted.

"They could be anonymizing the data, nobody will be embarrassed," he said, pointing out only the attack information would be revealed.