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Source: NewsFactor Network

Posted on April 22, 2001

      With the formation of a new Internet security association, companies around the world will now be able to pay for real-time access to top-level government information about cyber threats from hackers and other forms of computer sabotage.

      The CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC), a government-funded research group that has detected such threats as the "Love Letter" e-mail virus and others, has joined with the Electronic Industries Alliance, a federation of trade organizations, to form the Internet Security Alliance (ISA).

      At membership prices ranging from US$2,500 to $70,000, companies can now have fast access to information about vulnerabilities discovered by CERT/CC that until now took as long as 45 days to receive.

Security Portal

      The ISA is "designed to respond to the urgent economic security challenge posed by a growing dependence on e-commerce," the group stated in a media advisory issued Wednesday.

      A press conference announcing the launch and elaborating on the group's mission is scheduled for Thursday in Washington, D.C.

      "With the formation of the ISA, members will have a single portal for up-to-the-minute threat reports, best security practices, risk management strategies, and more, which will give them an edge in the volatile environment of the Internet," the group said in a membership pitch on its Web site.

45-Day Waiting Period

      CERT/CC, formerly known as the Computer Emergency Response Team, was founded in 1988 and is run by the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute, which is partly funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

      From January through December 2000, CERT/CC received 774 vulnerability reports and handled 21,756 computer security incidents affecting more than 9,350,000 hosts.

      In the past, CERT provided warnings of new cyber-threats to government agencies, but waited as long as 45 days before releasing information about the threats to the public.

      "What we do is try to assess what the impact is going to be on the community as a whole. We want to make sure and understand the full impact of the vulnerability," CERT/CC spokesman Ian Finlay told NewsFactor Network.

      "We try to coordinate with the vendors as well. We let them know about a vulnerability," and allow them time to create a fix for the problem, Finlay said.

      The latest example is a CERT warning issued last week about a security problem in Alcatel's asymmetrical digital subscriber line modems that left otherwise secure networks open to outside monitoring and hacker attacks.

Training Programs

      In addition to early-warning benefits, the Internet Security Alliance plans to create training and certification programs to standardize qualifications in the information security field.

      The Internet Security Alliance joins a handful of other security trade groups that are vertically focused on their specific industries.

      "The key distinctions between the ISA and existing groups organized around information security issues are its breadth, service offerings and proactive orientation," according to the ISA Web site.

      The Internet Security Alliance's founding members include the Nasdaq stock market, Mellon Financial Corp., American International Group (AIG) and others.

      Founding members paid $70,000 each to get the organization off the ground.

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