WASHINGTON – Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are vying with telecommunications companies to defend banks and power grids from computer attacks, in a program that gives them access to classified U.S. government data on cyber threats.
President Obamas Feb. 12 cybersecurity executive order authorized the Department of Homeland Security to let new companies get the government intelligence.
Obama and U.S. officials have said sharing classified threat data with companies is essential to help prevent cyberattacks that could cause deaths or economic disruption.
So far, the two defense contractors have signed up for DHS Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program, joining previous participants AT&T and CenturyLink.
Under the program, the companies are provided – free of charge – computer threat signatures, such as timestamps and coding used in attacks, which have been obtained by the National Security Agency and other agencies.
The companies can use this intelligence to strengthen cybersecurity services they sell to businesses that maintain critical infrastructure.
The demand is there. I think the priority is there, and the threat is serious, Steve Hawkins, vice president of information and security solutions for Raytheon, said in an interview.
Defense contractors like Raytheon view cybersecurity as a growing business as Pentagon spending stalls or declines on more traditional military programs, Hawkins said.
Raytheon, of Waltham, Mass., has acquired 12 companies specializing in cybersecurity since 2007, he said. The acquisitions include Greer, S.C.-based Teligy Inc. in October, which specializes in wireless cyber protection, and Herndon, Va.-based Trusted Computer Solutions Inc. in November 2010, which specializes in network security.
We work with literally every organization across the government as well as many Fortune 500 companies, Hawkins said.
Raytheon now wants to make cybersecurity affordable to medium- and small-sized businesses.
The Homeland Security department determines which companies qualify as commercial service providers.
To be eligible, companies must be able to safeguard classified information, have employees with security clearances, and be positioned to provide cybersecurity services to businesses, Darrell Durst, a vice president of cyber solutions at Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed said in an e-mail.
Lockheed, the nations largest contractor, already provides cybersecurity services to corporate and government clients and will use the new program to offer additional cyber services to a broader set of customers, Durst said.
Raytheon and Lockheed signed agreements with the Department of Homeland Security within the past three weeks to join the program.
So far, CenturyLink and Dallas-based AT&T, the biggest U.S. telephone carrier, are the only other approved providers.
While it is a business opportunity, we also see it as vital to the continued economic vitality of the U.S., Diana Gowen, a senior vice president for Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink, said in an email.