Motorola Solutions recently announced the establishment of the Public Safety Threat Alliance, which is believed to be the first information sharing and analysis organization (ISAO) dedicated to public safety recognized by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of US State Homeland Security (DHS).
Public safety members of the Public Safety Threat Alliance (PSTA) will be able to share cyber threat information and analyze such information from multiple sources – the goal of a 2015 executive order that identified ISAOs as vehicles for sharing cybersecurity information and best practices.
Brad Stoddard, a member of the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC) and director of Michigan Public Safety Communications Systems (MPSCS), said he believes there will be benefit to having an ISAO approach in the public safety sector. Public safety representatives have been able to obtain information about cyber threats from other sources, but not all information is relevant to first responder communications, and sometimes personnel receiving the information do not recognize its importance to public safety , said.
“In different states or territories, IT teams don’t necessarily have a deep understanding of emergency communications,” Stoddard said during an interview with IWCE Urgent Communications. “And that’s not just [land mobile] radio: it could be 911, alert and warning, ham radio and all those pieces.”
Tasha Cornish, executive director of the Maryland Cyber Security Association, an organization that helps cyber security companies grow and provides cyber security educational resources to businesses and end customers, also expressed support for creating a dedicated ISAO. for public safety.
“We were very excited about the ISAO announcement,” Cornish said during an interview with IWCE Urgent Communications. “We know that many state and local agencies are working hard to stay cyber-ready, but they have many hats: They often don’t have time to process the incoming threat intelligence.
“Through the ISAO, this is truly a game changer for those organizations, who will now have practical steps and resources to protect their systems and data.”
Billy Bob Brown, Jr., deputy executive director of emergency communications for CISA, echoed this sentiment.
“The establishment of the Public Safety Threat Alliance fills a critical gap, creating a single entity entirely focused on the collection, analysis, production, and sharing of actionable cyber threat information and intelligence focused on public safety,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Now, the public safety community is better equipped to focus its cyber threat intelligence and defense efforts on specific adversaries and their malicious cyber attacks.”
With its considerable investments in the first aid sector and its resources, Motorola Solutions is a “natural fit” to lead an ISAO focused on public safety, Stoddard said.
Public safety entities are eligible to join the PSTA at no cost and receive cybersecurity information published by the group. The information provided by public safety agencies to the PSTA will be processed by Motorola Solutions, based on the answers provided by the company in response to the questions to IWCE Urgent Communications.
“Members are not required to share any information,” according to Motorola Solutions’ response. “However, the more information and intelligence members share with the PSTA about cyberattacks and hacking threats, the better positioned it will be to help ensure the overall cybersecurity posture of the public safety community.
“As head of the ISAO, Motorola Solutions will access and anonymize the raw data and intelligence received to create an actionable intelligence product for agencies to use to thwart cyberattacks and successful attacks.”
Cornish said he thinks PSTA members will feel more comfortable sharing cybersecurity information than in the past, given the ever-changing digital environment that has seen an explosion in ransomware attacks and other cyber threats.
“I think threat sharing has become socialized enough now that people are starting to recognize the true strength of reporting, much more so than a few years ago,” Cornish said.
Additionally, systems used by public safety and other critical infrastructure entities are being attacked more frequently by sophisticated actors representing nation-states, according to Cornish.
“It’s very scary, because we know a lot of their targets are this critical infrastructure that used to be off limits, but now nothing is off limits,” Cornish said.
Scott Kaine, corporate vice president of cybersecurity at Motorola Solutions, said recent cybersecurity statistics reinforce the need for the PSTA.
“For example, there was a reported 1,885% increase in ransomware attacks against governments around the world in 2021,” said Scott Kaine, corporate vice president of Cybersecurity, Motorola Solutions. “With cyber threats increasing in scope, scale and complexity, the Public Safety Threat Alliance can help dramatically increase the effectiveness with which intelligence is used to monitor, detect and respond to potential threats before they cause network downtime. public security services.
For many years, cybersecurity was not considered an urgent priority for many public safety entities because most of their mission-critical systems were isolated in “silos.” But that dynamic has changed significantly over the past two decades, as policies and funding have been developed that encourage interoperability and connectivity between a variety of systems, enabling new functionality and efficiencies.
But that this new level of connectivity between systems, many of which have very different security profiles, also amplifies the risk of cyber threats, Stoddard said. Through an ISAO, there is a greater chance that all entities within an interoperable ecosystem will have similar knowledge of the cyber threat landscape at any given time, enhancing the security of all entities involved, he said.
“Now, they’re all going to be connected to each other … so it’s a mutual risk between everybody,” Stoddard said. “No matter what system it is, they all have some level of connection, and that’s the same across states and territories.”
“Every couple of weeks, sometimes more often, I hear another story of someone coming in through an attack vector that people didn’t even know was connected to the internet,” Cornish said. “They didn’t even know that it could be a source of entry to the network.
“They [Motorola Solutions] they have their work cut out for them. There’s a lot of data to sort through, but I’m sure they’ll be able to figure out and bring to the top what really are the biggest threats to public safety.”
Motorola Solutions plans to reach out to its public safety customer base, the largest in the industry, “in the coming weeks” with information outlining how agencies can participate in the PSTA, according to a company spokesperson.
“Membership in the PSTA is open to all public safety agencies, who will receive the sharing and analysis of public safety information (i.e., studies, reports, anonymous proprietary data, publicly reported data, and closed source cyber intelligence), free of charge,” according to Motorola Solutions’ response provided to IWCE Urgent Communications.
Agencies that are not customers of Motorola Solutions can join the ISAO. However, Stoddard and Cornish acknowledged that such arrangements could be more difficult to execute in practice, given potential concerns about the prospect of sharing the sensitive nature of system information with another provider.