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Federal agencies, banks agree to cooperate on cybersecurity

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security signed a memorandum of understanding this week to facilitate innovation, identify and address cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and develop effective cybersecurity processes to keep financial institutions safe from cyber attack.

The public and private organizations plan to combine their cybersecurity expertise, research and development capabilities and other resources to test new cybersecurity technologies and develop new processes that protect financial services functions. This cybersecurity research could also be applied to the health care and smart grid areas, NIST noted.

“We certainly could proceed bilaterally with both DHS and the financial services industry without any formal memorandum”, Charles Romine, acting associate director for laboratory programs at NIST, told Government Computer News. “Where this adds value is in sending a strong signal” about public-private cooperation, he added.

One aspect of the agreement, however, is surprising. There is no funding provided to carry out the cybersecurity efforts detailed in the MoU. Each group has to pay its own way if it wants to participate in joint programs.

In a White House blog, chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra and cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt said: “In this global, digital age, the nation’s competitiveness and prosperity depend on cybersecurity. Working together, these partners will use the power of innovation to make cyberspace safer and more resilient for the nation, its citizens, and its businesses.”

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