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Cyber In security News

TM

August 2019
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INTERVIEW: MICHELINE DADIEGO / FBI & BOB ANTIA / INFRAGARD
HOW YOU—YES,YOU—CAN PARTNER WITH THE FBI
Bob Antia
Individuals can help themselves, and possibly their companies, while protecting the U.S. infrastructure from cyberattacks.
Though it’s often called the FBI’s InfraGard program, its proper name is simply InfraGard. That’s because it isn’t run by the FBI. It’s run by its members, who are concerned citizens who partner with the FBI in order to help protect the country’s infrastructure. Founded in Cleveland in 1995, the program has grown to 50,000 members who belong to 80 chapters around the country.
     To learn more about it, we spoke to FBI Special Agent Micheline (pronounced Mik-ah-leen) Dadiego, who for the past four years has been the Boston Division’s Private Sector Coordinator, covering Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.  During her previous 12 years at the FBI, she covered the gamut, investigating bank robberies, white collar crime and international espionage. She was joined by Bob Antia, who is the board president of InfraGard’s Massachusetts chapter. Antia has been part of the program for about a dozen years, and has worked closely with Dadiego since her arrival. He’s been a chief security officer and a security consultant for a number of companies over the past decade, and has a long history of volunteering. 
     Together they explained the benefits that the program offers companies, even though companies aren’t the InfraGard members. And they answered many of the questions that attorneys might have before they’d be inclined to join. Antia also mentioned that last year the special value that lawyers can contribute was recognized when they were invited to collaborate within the larger group. 

CyberInsecurity News: Micheline, what made you decide that you wanted to get involved with the InfraGard program?
Micheline Dadiego: InfraGard is the longest FBI partnership with the private sector. I think that none of us stand alone. We need collaboration with the private sector to really do our job effectively. This offers the opportunity for me to work as a liaison with our community. 

CIN: What does the FBI want to get out of it?
MD: We want to strengthen our relationship with our private-sector partners. We want InfraGard to be a place where we can share. The FBI would like to give information to the public, and we would like to receive information from the public. As Special Agent Micheline Dadiego, I can be the face for FBI Boston. I’m the person who can go out to meet companies. People don’t want to call a switchboard and report something. Maybe people are a little nervous reporting things to the FBI. This way, I can have a relationship with them and with all of my InfraGard members, so if there’s something they want to talk about, they know me already. You never want to meet someone for the first time in the midst of a crisis.

CIN: Bob, when and how did you first hear about InfraGard? And what made you interested in getting involved?
Bob Antia: That’s a sordid tale. It was around 2007. Friends of mine were involved with InfraGard, and I like shooting rifles. My favorite rifle in the world to shoot is an MP5, and that’s the rifle we get to shoot on Range Day. And I said, “I’ll join up if I can get to shoot an MP5.” It made perfect sense. [He and Micheline both laugh.] Then I got really involved. And ultimately came on the board and became president. I first met Micheline when she started four years ago. It was right around the time when I became president.

CIN: The focus of InfraGard, as the name implies, is protecting the country’s infrastructure. And cyberattacks are only one of many threats on your radar, correct?
BA: Correct.
MD: InfraGard marries up with the 16 critical sectors. Those sectors include the chemical sector, the commercial facilities sector, dams, defense, energy, banking, IT, etc. Each is represented within our area of responsibility (AOR), and so we really try to get information during meetings to focus around one of those sectors.

CIN: Bob, can you tell us about those meetings? How often do you hold them?
BA: The meetings happen once a month, usually on the third Thursday of the month. They can cover any number of topics. We had one last year at a dam to review it. We’ve had talks focused on officer safety, officers’ use of force. With the focus of the media on police shootings, we brought in some experts who study that. We’ve had talks about the opioid crisis. And we had a great drone program recently. We’ve had talks about hostage negotiation, international kidnapping, ransomware, corporate IP protection and business email compromise.

CIN: Tell us about the board work, and what additional responsibility you took on when you became the president.
BA: The board work is keeping a volunteer organization going. Organizing meetings, getting people involved, contributing time, getting sponsorships. Then there’s developing programming—identifying topics of interest, getting speakers. When I first joined InfraGard, it was very IT-centric. In the time I’ve been with it, we’ve moved it now to really all the infrastructures, and all the areas that we cover.

CIN: Does the board president have to plan everything?
BA: Oh God. That would be a full-time job. It’s distributed. I will organize one or two meetings a year. My meetings are in August and December.
MD: The board of directors, which is composed of nine members, equally share in the responsibility of working on programming, getting speakers, getting venues and planning meetings. 
BA: My role as president is to motivate people to do these things.

CIN: How much of the responsibility is picked up by the FBI?
BA: It’s truly a partnership. There’s a give-and-take going back and forth all the time. There is no “this is the way we do things: A, B, C, D.” Micheline will have an idea. If it’s a good idea, why wouldn’t we do it?
MD: It’s definitely a collaboration.
BA: And let’s be clear. As a local chapter, we get input from two sides. We get input from our local FBI office, and we get input from the national organization, and national is very active. We have monthly regional meetings, annual regional face-to-face meetings and an annual national meeting. And during the regional meetings, the national group will be there on the phone or in person. And some of the national folks are Boston members, so there’s informal communication, too.

CIN: When you say national meetings, are you speaking about just for the board, or for members as well?
BA: A little of both. If somebody national is in town for a meeting, we invite them to get up and speak. But national’s input is on board-level stuff: what we need to do to comply with their mandate, board rules, board requirements. There’s also an annual audit.
MD: There’s a big national meeting called the InfraGard Congress that is held in the beginning of September every year. That’s when the Congress convenes to vote on specific issues. There’s one representative per chapter. And that’s in conjunction with a conference for the whole week. And InfraGard members are invited to attend that conference.

CIN: Bob, is there communication among the local chapters? Would the Massachusetts group communicate or even combine a meeting with the New Hampshire group?
BA: The word would be “constantly.” Each chapter has something that they’ve figured out that the others haven’t. So we’re always going back and forth on that. And we do hold multiple-chapter meetings. Our last one was on health care with Rhode Island.
MD: We had an information-sharing initiative conference—a full day of programming—that was put on by all four chapters, with Rhode Island taking the lead. And that was opened up to InfraGard members as well as academia and private-sector partners. So we really try to do a lot for the community as well as the members.

CIN: Let’s talk about the members. Members are individuals. They don’t represent anyone other than themselves.
BA: They’ve got to be 18 years or older, be a U.S. citizen, align with one of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors, and consent to an FBI risk assessment and subsequent recertifications. Our No. 1 reason for people not getting in is that they either lie or omit some previous criminal history.

CIN: How do the members find the program, or how do you find the members?
BA: Through outreach efforts. If there’s a security conference in town, more often than not there will be an InfraGard table there with board members and FBI agents. It’s networking and word of mouth.
MD: And let me tell you, some of these speakers are so amazing that we’re getting unsolicited emails all the time asking how to join. We’ve got an active shooter training coming up, and we had to expand the attendance twice because it’s so popular. If you put on good programming, and you have quality people who are joining, then word spreads.

CIN: Does the program involve companies in any way, or benefit companies in any way?
BA: Yes, it involves companies through sponsorship and awareness. And hosting an InfraGard event. We do our best not to pay for venues for meetings. So various companies will host them, and that brings a certain awareness of what that company does.

CIN: What are the benefits for companies?
BA: They can set up a table at meetings they sponsor and contribute speakers. And then there’s threat awareness. We’re privy to a lot of nonpublic information that may impact their decision-making. There’s a lot of information that flows—practically on a daily basis—out of Washington that gives us a good idea of things that are going on, things to watch out for. Getting down to the real nitty-gritty, IP addresses to block on your firewall. It’s a really comprehensive set of information that flows.
MD: The information that the FBI and DHS push out via a secure portal is sensitive information that’s unclassified. It includes local threat intelligence products, daily news feeds. That goes out to all the members. We’ve got the ability to communicate via secure messaging. Our members have asked us for iGuardian, which is an FBI cyber intrusion incident reporting tool, so they can plug in any malware and get back information about that cyber hack. They get discounts to seminars and conferences such as ASIS [American Society for Industrial Security],  and then they have access to government agency training programs. DHS puts on a lot of them.
BA: We can also be granted a government emergency telecommunications system [GETS] wireless priority service [WPS] card for emergency telecommunications, and Boston-area members can gain access to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center [BRIC] daily briefings.

CIN: Micheline, you do outreach and information sessions for companies as part of your job. But the expectation is that InfraGard, while it’s not working directly with companies, is reaching them because some of the members work at companies that can benefit from the information that their workers obtain, correct?
MD: Correct.
BA: And it’s a two-way street. There may be times when you’ll get a call from Micheline saying, “We’d like you to come in and talk to us about a particular topic.”
MD: Absolutely. We reach out to companies and InfraGard members. We might reach out to someone at Sony, after the Sony hacks, through a relationship from InfraGard. We might reach out to General Dynamics, if we’ve seen something, and have them come in because they’re a vetted, trusted partner of the FBI. So it definitely does work two ways. These are people that, as an FBI coordinator, I would feel comfortable reaching out to for information.

CIN: Bob, do you have a sense of how many lawyers you have among your membership? And is there anything in particular that they bring to the table, or is there any way that they influence what you do that would make InfraGard a particularly attractive organization for them to be part of?
BA: I would guess it’s between 5 and 12 percent. And your question is well-timed. InfraGard not only has the 16 critical sectors, but when sectors overlap, we create national special interest groups, or SIGs We have a SIG for electromagnetic pulses, because that affects power in everything. And a legal SIG was started just last year. And this year a security officer SIG is being started, which I’ve been asked to join. So there is a legal SIG dealing with the legal ramifications of all the things that we do. And this year a security officer SIG is being started, which I’ve been asked to join
MD: One of the perceptions among lawyers in private industry is that, when a crisis hits, the FBI is going to come in and slow down the response to the crisis and take proprietary data. And one of the things we try to get across to the legal industry is that this is not the case. That’s the whole reason behind having these relationships in place ahead of time. We’re not going to come in and take your proprietary data. Our agents aren’t going to slow you down. It’s basically to try to get ahead of the threat and share threat indicators with other businesses in different industries that could find themselves vulnerable to attack. That’s one of the things we try to communicate.

CIN: We know that’s a concern to a lot of lawyers, because we’ve heard it. And a related issue is that lots of lawyers are concerned about confidentiality and attorney-client privilege. Are those issues that come up in your meetings and your work?
BA: Confidentiality is so key to InfraGard—what you can say, what you can’t say, what the FBI can say, what the FBI can’t say—that it’s just sort of part of the fabric of what we do. The FBI possesses a whole lot of compartmentalized information. This is what the FBI does: It keeps secrets.
MD: We do. We keep people’s information safe and private.
BA: It’s part of the DNA. If everybody talked to everybody, there would be no national secrets.

CIN: So when members come in and start talking about things they know, including things they know from their work, they don’t have to worry that people connect them to their companies?
BA: Generally, issues that are sensitive are done in a one-on-one or one-on-two setting. People won’t just stand up in a meeting and say, “I’m Nancy from Merck, and I just got compromised.”
MD: That would be a conversation that a member would have privately with me.
BA: Or bring to a [chapter] officer, who would then steer it to Micheline. Members do come to me, and I steer them to her, because she’s our point of entry into the FBI.

CIN: One of the issues that we hear complaints about is, “Gee, I’m giving information to the FBI or to DHS, and they’re not giving me a lot of threat information that benefits me—that helps me avoid risks.” How do you respond to that?
BA: It’s simple. That means you haven’t logged on to the portal. There’s a huge amount of relevant information, from everybody from lawyers to trucking companies to railroad companies. It’s almost overload.
MD: The FBI is pushing out a lot of very sensitive unclassified information to InfraGard members. And it’s out there for members to use. However, there is truth to what you said in your question. When we have a sensitive investigation, there are some things the FBI can’t talk about. And this goes back to the privacy that you talked about. If we’re investigating something, we don’t want the company’s name out there. We don’t want their reputation tarnished. So the FBI protects the information for everyone’s protection.

CIN: Is there a lesson that companies and their lawyers can take away from this conversation?
BA: It’s always best to know somebody from the FBI, so that if you have to engage or they have to engage, you have a relationship to base that on.
MD: Prior to something going wrong.
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