National Counterintelligence and Security Center Launches Effort to Protect Industry Against State Actors

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On January 7, 2019, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), which coordinates counter-intelligence efforts within the U.S. government, announced that it would begin disseminating its “Know the Risk, Raise Your Shield” materials in an effort to assist the private sector in guarding against threats from foreign intelligence entities and other adversaries. 

This campaign appears to have been prompted by the Trump administration’s efforts to drive U.S. companies to better protect their trade secrets from foreign hackers.  This comes on the heels of recent cyber-attacks from China, which included campaigns targeting intellectual property, confidential business information, and other data at managed service providers, as well as other recent attacks by Iran, Russia, and North Korea.  NCSC’s Director, William Evanina, indicated the goal of the program was to “enhance private sector awareness” and “arm[] U.S. companies with information they need to better understand and defend against these threats.” 

The “Know the Risk, Raise Your Shield” materials provided by the NCSC include videos, brochures, flyers, posters and other products and materials which are meant to enable personnel at U.S. companies to better understand threats posed by foreign intelligence entities, including foreign governments, corporations, and their proxies.  Specifically, the materials contain basic tips to help mitigate risks faced by the private sector.  For example, included in the materials is a brochure that identifies six best practices a company should engage in to counter foreign intelligence entity (FIE) threats.  These include:

  1. Establishing programs to counter FIE threats;
  2. Identifying and assessing risks to sensitive assets;
  3. Developing and implementing mitigation strategies;
  4. Developing and implementing mitigation strategies;
  5. Integrating Counter-FIE efforts across the organization; and
  6. Promote confidential information and security training and awareness.

Each best practice contains action items in the form of a check-list which companies can follow to accomplish each goal.

The materials also include NCSC’s 2018 Foreign Economic Espionage in Cyberspace report, which provides insight into the most pervasive nation-state threats (i.e., China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran).  The report also includes detailed breakout of the industrial sectors and technologies that are of the highest interest to State actors, such as biotechnology, defense technology, the energy/alternative energy industry, high-end manufacturing, and several more.

While the campaign is directed at the protection of U.S. companies, the “Know the Risk, Raise Your Shield” materials also contain information that may be helpful to individuals in protecting their personal information.  For example, included in the materials is a flyer which identifies twelve helpful practices when accessing Social Media applications, which may assist people in avoiding Social Media deception or the disclosure of personally identifiable information.  It even contains tips for individuals partaking in international travel, where smartphones, laptops, tablets, and even digital cameras and external storage components, are susceptible to security threats.