Mark Clancy, DTCC managing director and corporate information security officer, told the House Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee during a June 1 hearing entitled Cyber Threats to Capital Markets and Corporate Accounts that the termination of the GISF program in 2011 eliminated a critical source of threat data and analysis for the financial sector.
“While financial institutions have robust information security programs in place to protect their systems from cyber threats, they are not foolproof,” Clancy said. “A critical resource the industry relies upon to help safeguard the system is information sharing between federal agencies and the financial sector. DTCC strongly supports restarting the GISF program, removing its pilot status and expanding its reach within the financial sector to ensure that all resources are working in concert to protect and defend the capital markets from cyber-attack.”
The GISF program commenced in 2010 as a collaboration between the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and The Financial Services–Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), the primary group for information sharing between the federal government and the financial sector. It allowed for the sharing of advanced threat and attack data between the federal government and 16 financial services firms that were deemed capable of protecting highly sensitive information. The program was expanded over time to include the sharing of classified technical and analytical data on threat identification and mitigation techniques.
The DoD in effect terminated the GISF program in December 2011, and information sharing through DHS, which was expected to continue, also ceased that month. Since the termination of GISF, several organizations in the financial sector have experienced threat activity from actors first identified to the industry through GISF reporting. A recent FS-ISAC assessment found that these threats will continue to increase in the years ahead.
Clancy credited the GISF program with enhancing the financial sector’s:
* Access to actionable information to search for similar threat activity in their own networks,
* Access to contextual information to better understand risk implications of various threats,
* Ability to adjust assessments of cyber espionage using quantifiable information that had previously been unavailable, and
* Understanding of the need to develop standards to support the automation of sharing and consuming threat data.
“Information sharing like that which occurred under the program represents the most critical line of defense in managing and mitigating cyber risk today [sic],” Clancy said. “GISF drove innovative new initiatives in the industry and helped reshape the sector’s approach to assessing cyber espionage risks while prompting pilot firms, including DTCC, to revise best practices for managing threat information. It also spurred financial institutions to make significant additional investments in threat mitigation and detection capabilities that otherwise could not have been easily justified due the lack of understanding of the risk to the sector.”
Clancy added that while GISF was successful in many aspects, it should be expanded to include a broader group of financial institutions because the pilot program’s reach and impact were too limited and did not scale to the depth and breadth of the sector.