Tech and telecom lobbying groups announce joint cybersecurity initiative

Lobbying groups representing major technology and telecommunications firms are teaming up to jointly tackle cybersecurity issues.

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and USTelecom on Friday announced the creation of the Council to Secure the Digital Economy. The goal of the group is to combat cyber threats such as hacking and to address technological vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches and other compromises to sensitive information among other things.

Partners in the council include Akamai, AT&T, CenturyLink, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, NTT, Oracle, Samsung, SAP, Telefonica and Verizon.

The partnership marks a united front between the two trade associations, which often find themselves at odds on a number of issues.

“As our hyper-interconnected world becomes increasingly dependent upon the internet and communications infrastructure, threats to the global digital ecosystem have become more frequent, sophisticated and consequential,” USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter said in a statement announcing the new council.

“The CSDE reflects a shared commitment across the leadership of the global information and communications technology sector to pursue security mitigation as intensely as digital innovation,” he continued.

John Miller, vice president of cybersecurity at ITI, said that the two groups are particularly concerned about global cybersecurity threats like botnets, which could potentially take down the internet across the world.

Miller and Robert Mayer, vice president of cybersecurity at USTelecom,explained that they want to use the new council to help develop a system for a coordinated response across companies to such threats.

“I think there’s an opportunity here for a group of companies to take leadership on this. Clearly, there’s an appropriate role for the government to support, but business can also work with the government to come to solutions,” said Mayer.

The initiative has been welcomed by government officials.

“This is exactly the type of industry collaboration needed to help frame the important issues through a shared digital economy lens,” said Chris Krebs, senior official performing the duties of the under secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.

Despite an openness to working with lawmakers and government officials, the two groups say that they want to keep regulation to a minimum, citing concerns that too much regulation could stifle innovation.

“What I would say is that we’re all in agreement is that regulatory and compliance regime won’t really address threats that are evolving in the long term,” Mayer argued. “We all want to make sure we’re not stuck with regulation that’s static and makes it difficult for companies to operate on a level playing field.”

Cybersecurity experts like Bruce Schneier, who has testified before Congress on botnets, have challenged this. Schneider has argued that past market failures in preventing botnets suggest that companies should be regulated to prevent future attacks.

“We really need to starting thinking about intervention, or the market failure is going to be catastrophic here,” he wrote in August.