Critical Infrastructures: The Path Ahead (Proceedings of: XIWT symposium on Cross-Industry Activities for Information Infrastructure Robustness)
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February 1999

The Cross-Industry Working Team (XIWT), with the support of Stanford University Consortium for Research on Information Security and Policy (CRISP), sponsored a symposium on cross-industry activities aimed at improving the reliability, dependability, and robustness of the information infrastructure. The purpose of this meeting was to identify the steps required to get to a reliable and dependable information infrastructure serving the needs of society. The emphasis in the meeting was on cross-industry and potentially cross-sector (government, industry, and academia) activities to accomplish that goal. The symposium dealt with the following generic topics: organizational activities to identify and pursue critical issues, issues in data transport and communications, issues in applications and services, and potential research and development activities.

The presentations and discussions of the meeting identified several potential cross-industry activities that could further the effort toward a more reliable and trustworthy information infrastructure. These activities fell into four general categories:

  • Information Exchange Activities
  • Consensus Activities
  • Collaborative Operational Activities
  • Collaborative R&D Activities

Two specific activities were discussed in some detail.

Government Sharing of Best Practices

It was observed that many of the government agencies have undertaken extensive efforts to improve the trustworthiness of their information systems, enabling them to withstand both failures and attacks. There is an opportunity for these agencies to be exemplars for the community— sharing what they have learned in the process of trying to make their systems more robust. This was felt to be an example of how the government and industry could work together to improve the trustworthiness of the overall information infrastructure.

Collaborative Experimental Environments

A potentially very productive collaborative R&D activity was discussed, involving industry, academia, and government. Universities and university consortia are investigating new techniques for building reliable systems of unreliable components, and for dealing with large complex systems. There is a need to evaluate, validate, and assimilate such research results into the industry environment. To that end, a collaborative, multi-industry experimental environment was discussed. This environment, distributed across multiple organizations, could provide such an evaluation, validation, and assimilation opportunity.

A number of other potential cross-industry activities were also mentioned throughout the meeting, and are discussed briefly in the proceedings.

Attendees agreed (based on a follow-up survey and informal comments) that the symposium was well worthwhile, and that continued dialogue is important to achieving the shared goal of a trustworthy information infrastructure. XIWT plans on helping foster such dialogue as well as collaborative activities toward that goal.

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