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NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander has again made his case for expanded threat and vulnerability intelligence sharing between key government agencies like the NSA, FBI, DHS and the CIA, as well as with the private sector and allied nations.

Alexander made the appeal for threat intelligence sharing at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit during his keynote address.

“We need the authority for us to share with them and them to share with us. But because some of that information is classified, we need a way to protect it,” Alexander said. “Right now, we can’t see what’s happening in real time. We’ve got to share it with them, and potentially with other countries.”

Alexander argues that the pivot point is in crafting strong legislation that would allow agencies and private organizations the ability to legally share threat information in real time, while also maintaining security of the systems used to relay the data.

“If we can’t see it, we can’t respond to it. We have to do that at network speed, ” Alexander said. “We have to share what we know about those threats and they have to tell us what they see. This is where Internet service providers are critical, not just here but with our allies.”

Many in the private sector are wary of the notion of sharing sensitive data with the government for fear of bad publicity, the undermining of stakeholder confidence, and legal liability should a serious breach or successful cyber attack event occur, and have called for the establishment of legal immunity and liability limitations.

“We have to work with industry, because we can’t see it. Right now what happens is the attack goes on and we’re brought in after the fact. And I can guarantee you 100 percent of the time we cannot stop an attack after the fact. That legislation that we’re pushing for is absolutely important for our country,” Alexander said.

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