Nov 23, 2010 (09:11 AM EST)
DHS Cybersecurity Center Promotes Information Sharing

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Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched a new cybersecurity center aimed at communicating more efficiently with state and local governments about potential cybersecurity threats to critical U.S. infrastructure.

The Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) Cyber Security Operations Center is a 24-hour watch and warning facility aimed at giving government officials at the state and local levels better situational awareness about cybersecurity incidents, according to the DHS.

The goal of the new facility is to provide state and local governments with the same critical cyber risk, vulnerability and mitigation data that the federal government is privy to, according to the DHS.

The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) -- the cyber incident response hub led by the DHS -- will coordinate information for the MS-ISAC Operations Center. The MS-ISAC itself is a way for state and local governments to work together to enhance cyber-threat prevention, protection, and response and recovery.

The DHS is the agency primarily responsible for working with state and local governments, as well as the private sector, to keep the U.S. safe from cyber attacks, but it has been criticized for not collaborating effectively enough.

Most recently, the Office of Inspector General chided the agency for how it is disseminating information about cyber threats to state and local fusion centers. The DHS and Department of Justice established these centers in 2003 specifically to coordinate counter-terrorist information and data collected by both government agencies and private companies. There currently are more than 20 fusion centers across the country.

In another effort to bolster information sharing, the DHS also recently signed a deal with the Information Technology Information Sharing and Analysis Center (IT-ISAC) to appoint a DHS liaison at NCCIC and, in turn, send a permanent representative from the MS-ISAC to the NCCIC.

The IT-ISAC is composed of private-sector IT stakeholders who cooperate to identify cyber vulnerabilities in specific industry and government sectors, as well as come up with potential solutions for them.