GSA Fleshes Out Intrusion Net Plan

WASHINGTON (06/12/2000) - The U.S. General Services Administration is moving forward with its plans to build a governmentwide system to monitor agency networks for cyberattacks, but it is taking a slightly different tack than originally announced.

GSA last week released the draft request for proposals for the Federal Intrusion Detection Network (FIDNet) but said the document, while bringing it one big step closer to an acquisition, has plenty of room for change.

"We're trying to make sure that anything we structure makes business sense," said Darwyn Banks, FIDNet program manager at GSA.

FIDNet is intended to gather and correlate information about suspected attacks from intrusion-detection system sensors already in place at civilian agencies.

When announcing the project last summer, GSA said it hoped to work with security vendors to develop a solution based on emerging technology because existing tools would not meet the agency's requirements.

GSA still wants vendors to develop that technology, but the agency said it hopes to take advantage of a new commercial security offering known as managed security services.

Central to FIDNet is the ability to notice an attack against multiple agencies while it is happening, making it possible to defend against the attack. Most agencies simply do not have enough expertise in-house to manage a response strategy, and FIDNet is designed to automate that function.

The multisystem concept behind FIDNet will still require vendors to take their technology beyond its current capabilities. Intrusion-detection systems can read the output only from their own sensors, and the FIDNet system will need to read reports from the many sensors that agencies have installed across their networks.

GSA is still looking for a system to collect and correlate that information, but the agency also wants to hire one or more vendors to monitor the system and feed it to the FIDNet program office. The vendor may work off-site or within the FIDNet office. "We're no longer looking at a government-only solution. This is the same thing that's happening in the dot-com world," Banks said. "It's certainly reflective of where the industry is going, [which is toward] managed security services rather than going out and hiring lots of bodies," said Cal Shintani, vice president of business development at Trident Data Systems Inc.

"And the FIDNet concept has really changed. Now it really is just an intrusion-detection alert system and most of the action happens at the agencies."

With the new approach, the FIDNet program office will rely on the vendors to monitor and report on the information gleaned from intrusion-detection systems already in place at civilian agencies. Using the reports that agencies decide to send on to the FIDNet system, the program office, housed at GSA's Federal Computer Incident Response Capability (FedCIRC), will then be able to diagnose in real time whether a concerted, governmentwide attack is occurring.

FedCIRC, working with the National Infrastructure Protection Center's Analysis and Warnings Unit, will help any agencies under attack and issue alerts.

FedCIRC also will forward information collected by FIDNet to the FBI if necessary.

But the almost US$12 million request for FIDNet, like many of the other security programs proposed by the president in his National Plan for Information Systems Protection, is having problems making it through appropriations committees in Congress.

So although the original plan was to offer the basic level of service to agencies free of charge, the draft RFP is written in such a way that it will be easy to make the program a fee-for-service offering, with a small fee to enable operations of the FIDNet program office, Banks said.

GSA plans to have all comments back by June 23 and start developing the final RFP for release early next fiscal year, Banks said.

Industry is the primary intended audience, but GSA has also notified agencies, Congress and privacy organizations of the draft's release because all of those groups have been following the program closely, he said.

"We're expecting to get comments from a variety of sources," Banks said. "All CIOs were notified, the privacy groups, congressional staffers - everyone who has an interest."

FIDNet first caught the attention of the non-vendor community last July when a newspaper erroneously reported that the program would monitor both federal and private-sector networks. Since then, privacy groups and members of Congress have been paying close attention and speaking out for and against FIDNet at your service GSA envisions FIDNet offering agencies three levels of security services:

Standard: Monitor intrusion-detection sensor output, provide analysis and response.

Plus: Monitor intrusion-detection sensor output, provide analysis and response and provide reports.

Full: Monitor intrusion-detection sensor output, provide reports and manage security devices for the customer.

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