The U.S. government agency leading an effort to create a voluntary cybersecurity framework for companies operating critical infrastructure wants to hear ideas about what to include in those standards.
The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, tapped by President Barack Obama to steer the standards effort in a February executive order, needs the best ideas from businesses, officials with the agency said during a workshop Wednesday.
"Protecting America's businesses and America's infrastructure from attacks is crucial to ensuring our economy continues to grow," said Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST's parent agency. "The question is, how do we do that? There's only one viable answer: together."
NIST needs businesses to tell it which best practices and standards should be included in the framework, Blank added.
NIST's job in the development of the framework is to support businesses and operators of critical infrastructure, NIST Director Patrick Gallagher said. NIST will develop the framework based on the cybersecurity needs of industry, he said.
"This framework ... is one that has to be baked into your businesses and to your interests and to be put into practice in your daily lives," he told attendees of Wednesday's workshop. "We will not be seeking to tell industry how to build your products or to run your business; instead we are relying on critical infrastructure industries to dictate their needs for technology products and services."
During the framework development process, participants should aim for a flexible set of guidelines, said Russell Schrader, associate general counsel for global enterprise risk at Visa. "One size does not fit all," he said. "We need things that will enhance, rather than detract, from operational goals of business."
Schrader also called on NIST and other participants to build on existing cybersecurity programs and to aim for standards with global scalability. "One of the things we need to be careful about is to avoid confusing, duplicative, or even oppositional, standards and requirements across geographies," he said.
In February, NIST issued a request for information focused on the cybersecurity challenges businesses face and what steps they are taking now to protect their cyberassets. Comments are due by Monday.
Comments from Wednesday's workshop will be included in NIST's documents used as a foundation for developing the cybersecurity framework, Gallagher said.
Wednesday's workshop in Washington, D.C., served as an introduction to the standards development process, with NIST planning three more workshops in other cities to focus on the actual creation of the standards. The next workshop will be at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in late May.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.