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Ten Years and Going Strong


FBI's top cyber executive James Finch addresses the InfraGard conference in Washington, D.C.

FBI's top cyber executive James Finch addresses the InfraGard conference in Washington, D.C.

The president of Shell Oil was there. So were high-ranking execs from across government—the Secretary of Agriculture, a top Department of Homeland Security official, and the FBI’s cyber chief, to name a few.

Not to mention hundreds of public and private sector professionals—business leaders, entrepreneurs, military and government officials, computer security experts, academics, and state and local law enforcement.

And TV cameras were rolling, capturing key segments for national cable broadcast.

Not bad for the annual gathering of an alliance that began 10 years ago as a small startup in our Cleveland field office.

Like the program itself, the InfraGard conference— held in the nation’s capitol in late August—facilitated the free flow of ideas and information. All with the aim of preventing and responding to potentially disabling attacks on the nation’s physical and electronic infrastructure (think banks, water and food supplies, transportation and telecommunications networks, energy systems, emergency services, etc.)—by terrorists, spies, hackers, or whoever.

“We live in a highly interconnected world where, say, an attack on a power grid—whether trigged by a bomb or a bot—can impact millions of people,’’ says Don Good, head of the national InfraGard program for the FBI. “No one owns all of America’s infrastructure, so we have to keep the lines of communication wide open so attacks either never get off the ground or get addressed as quickly as possible.”

The conference was a perfect venue. Private sector attendees shared their expertise, strategies, and information on how to better protect U.S. critical infrastructures from computer intrusions, terrorist threats, physical security breaches, and other attacks. And government and law enforcement officials spread the word about intelligence sharing initiatives involving current critical infrastructure threats and vulnerabilities.

Among the issues on the table: rail and transit security, first response plans, cyber threats, gang violence, pandemic flu, financial crime trends, water and border security, food and agriculture safety, health care fraud, computer forensics, and post-disaster business continuity.

“We talked through just about every scenario and major threat you can think of,” explains Good. “We all learned a great deal from each other.”

Bottom line, InfraGard works. In fiscal year 2005, InfraGard members initiated approximately 95 investigations and helped support a similar number of cases. A clientless virtual private network has also enabled InfraGard members to read more than 200 restricted intelligence products, helping to educate members and provide a continuing dialogue with the FBI.

“With more than 16,000 members, 84 chapters nationwide, and an almost daily flow of vital information, we think InfraGard is one of the most quietly successful public/private partnerships around,” says Good.

Want to join? Go to the InfraGard website for details.

Resources: FBI Cyber Investigations | More on InfraGard