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IEEE Launches Industry Connections Formalizing Ad-Hoc Groups

The IEEE Standards Association's (IEEE-SA) new Industry Connections program provides a forum where interested parties can collaborate on industry focused work. The Industry Connections leverages the IEEE experience in organizing disparate groups addressing legal issues like intellectual property rights and anti-trust. The IEEE is also announcing the Industry Connections Security Group as the first group. The Industry Connections program is one more way the IEEE is trying to reinvent itself. The organization is great at working with vendors, but it needs to involve participation by other groups like enterprises, education,  and government.

The Industry Connections can be used for a number of activities. For example, prior to starting work on a standard, an argument or business has to be made demonstrating why a new standard must be developed. The business case has to be approved to that time and effort isn't wasted on unnecessary standards work.  An Industry Connection can facilitate the business case and provide some much needed thinking about the scope and goal of a standard before standards work begins. Jim Wendorf, a technology and standards consultant to the IEEE noted that often times when the standards work is done, the group is disbanded or languishes but there may be other issues that could be tackled which requires another round of set-up.

The hope is that the Industry Connection groups serves to address ongoing industry issues. Rather than herding the relevant parties together, an ongoing group can more easily bring up topics for discussion rather than getting the relevant parties together each time

For example, the Industry Connections Security  Group (ICSG), which includes AVG, McAfee, Microsoft, Sophos, Symantec, and Trend Micro, along with more than 30 other vendors, has been working for 6 months on a schema for sharing malware data. Jeff Green, SVP of McAfee AVERT Labs said, anti malware vendors already share data either formally or informally. Sometimes that results in wasted time and effort as Vendor A shares with Vendor B. Vendor B shares with Vendor C. Then Vendor C shares Vendors A data with Vendor A.  Moreover, the formats aren't standardized and require manual effort among all vendors. The schema, which is available on the ICSG site, is not an IEEE standard, but is an agreed upon format, facilitated by the IEEE, among the participating companies.

ICSG or IEEE-SA will also facilitate access to the schema as well as access to the group. The ICSG is not going to be a clearinghouse for malware information. There is some sensitivity in sharing malware. No one wants the bad guys, or gals, to get sensitive information about vulnerabilities. Organizations that wish to share malware information will still have to contact individual companies to make those arrangements. Both of those issues, creating a central repository and setting guidelines on sharing data, are the types of problems an Industry Connection group might be able to address.

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