Feds urge secrecy over network outages

No 'virtual road map' for terrorists


Giving the public too many details about significant network service outages could present cyberterrorists with a "virtual road map" to targeting critical infrastructures, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, which this month urged regulators to keep such information secret.

At issue is an FCC proposal that would require telecom companies to report significant outages of high-speed data lines or wireless networks to the commission. The plan would rewrite regulations that currently require phone companies to file a publicly-accessible service disruption report whenever they experience an outage that effects at least 30,000 telephone customers for 30 minutes or more. Enacted in the wake of the June 1991 AT&T long-distance crash, the FCC credits the rule with having reversed a trend of increased outages on the phone network, as telecom companies used the disclosures to develop best practices and learn from each others' mistakes.

The commission is hoping for similar results on the wireless and data networks that have become integral to the US economy and emergency response capability. The proposal would expand the landline reporting requirement to wireless services, and generally measure the impact of a telecom outage by the number of "user minutes" lost, instead of the number of customers affected.

It would also require telecom and satellite companies to start issuing reports when high-speed data lines suffer significant outages: specifically, whenever an outage of at least 30 minutes duration affects at least 1,350 "DS3 minutes." A DS3 line carries 45 megabits per second, the equivalent of 28 DS1 or T1 lines.

The reports would include details like the geographic area of the outage, the direct causes of the incident, the root cause, whether not there was malicious activity involved, the name and type of equipment that failed, and the steps taken to prevent a reoccurrence, among other things.

To the Department of Homeland Security, that's a recipe for disaster. "While this information is critical to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in the system, it can equally be employed by hostile actors to identify vulnerabilities for the purpose of exploiting them," the DHS argued in an FCC filing this month. "Depending on the disruption in question, the errant disclosure to an adversary of this information concerning even a single event may present a grave risk to the infrastructure."

If the FCC is going to mandate reporting, the DHS argued, it should channel the data to a more circumspect group: the Telecom ISAC (Information Sharing and Analysis Center), an existing voluntary clearinghouse for communications-related vulnerability information, whose members include several government agencies and all the major communications carriers. Data exchanged within the Telecom-ISAC is protected from public disclosure.

"The ultimate success of our critical infrastructure protection effort depends, in large part, not merely on having the necessary information, but on having it available when and where it is most needed," the DHS argues.

The FCC hasn't ruled on the matter. Telecom companies are generally against the proposed new reporting requirements, arguing that the industry's voluntary efforts are sufficient.

Copyright © 2004, 0

Related stories

US extends biometric passports deadline
Accenture wins $10bn Homeland Security gig
Federal agency faulted for weak security
TIA lives? Report lists US gov 'dataveillance' activities


Other stories you might like

  • EU-US Trade and Technology Council meets to coordinate on supply chains
    Agenda includes warning system for disruptions, and avoiding 'subsidy race' for chip investments

    The EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) is meeting in Paris today to discuss coordinated approaches to global supply chain issues.

    This is only the second meeting of the TTC, the agenda for which was prepared in February. That highlighted a number of priorities, including securing supply chains, technological cooperation, the coordination of measures to combat distorting practices, and approaches to the decarbonization of trade.

    According to a White House pre-briefing for US reporters, the EU and US are set to announce joint approaches on technical discussions to international standard-setting bodies, an early warning system to better predict and address potential semiconductor supply chain disruptions, and a transatlantic approach to semiconductor investments aimed at ensuring security of supply.

    Continue reading
  • US cops kick back against facial recognition bans
    Plus: DeepMind launches new generalist AI system, and Apple boffin quits over return-to-work policy

    In brief Facial recognition bans passed by US cities are being overturned as law enforcement and lobbyist groups pressure local governments to tackle rising crime rates.

    In July, the state of Virginia will scrap its ban on the controversial technology after less than a year. California and New Orleans may follow suit, Reuters first reported. Vermont adjusted its bill to allow police to use facial recognition software in child sex abuse investigations.

    Elsewhere, efforts are under way in New York, Colorado, and Indiana to prevent bills banning facial recognition from passing. It's not clear if some existing vetoes set to expire, like the one in California, will be renewed. Around two dozen US state or local governments passed laws prohibiting facial recognition from 2019 to 2021. Police, however, believe the tool is useful in identifying suspects and can help solve cases especially in places where crime rates have risen.

    Continue reading
  • RISC-V needs more than an open architecture to compete
    Arm shows us that even total domination doesn't always make stupid levels of money

    Opinion Interviews with chip company CEOs are invariably enlightening. On top of the usual market-related subjects of success and failure, revenues and competition, plans and pitfalls, the highly paid victim knows that there's a large audience of unusually competent critics eager for technical details. That's you.

    Take The Register's latest interview with RISC-V International CEO Calista Redmond. It moved smartly through the gears on Intel's recent Platinum Membership of the open ISA consortium ("they're not too worried about their x86 business"), the interest from autocratic regimes (roughly "there are no rules, if some come up we'll stick by them"), and what RISC-V's 2022 will look like. Laptops. Thousand-core AI chips. Google hyperscalers. Edge. The plan seems to be to do in five years what took Arm 20.

    RISC-V may not be an existential risk to Intel, but Arm had better watch it.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022