Retailers join DHS information network

Retailers are among the industry groups being invited to join a recent incarnation of the federal Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) specifically intended for critical infrastructure owners and operators and designed to help share unclassified information to guard against terrorist attacks.

The National Retail Federation has recruited executives from nearly 100 retail companies to participate in the network, called HSIN-CL, the trade group said in a press release. In addition, Joseph LaRocca, the federation's vice president of loss prevention, was selected by a senior group within the Homeland Security Department to serve on the network's governance board.

"HSIN is a terrific tool for retailers to use to help protect the safety of their companies through the additional communication vehicle to and from the Department of Homeland Security," LaRocca said in a press release.

"In today's political climate it is important for the public and private sectors to work together in protecting the United States from terrorism," Art F. Fierro, special assistant to the director of DHS' Homeland Security Operations Center, which operates the network, said in a statement distributed by the retail group.

The information network is a composite of several regional networks that share information among law enforcement, fire departments, local government agencies and businesses. Technologies used within the network include wired and wireless telephones, e-mail, facsimiles and text pagers to share alerts and notifications.

DHS debuted regional critical infrastructure components within the information network last year. Critical infrastructure owners and operators in Dallas, Seattle, Indianapolis and Atlanta took part in a pilot project linking them to the regional nodes of the information network. "To date, HSIN-CL communicates with nearly 40,000 members," DHS said in a press release April 27.

The network sends real-time information to its members, according to the retail federation release. Participants also may use the system "to discuss day-to-day security issues" and "to share information on suspicious activities with federal authorities."

Other industry sectors, including the chemical industry, ports and financial services, are expected to participate in the HSIN-CL as well.

The federal government also sponsors another set of antiterrorism information-sharing networks for industry groups: the Information Sharing and Analysis Centers set up under Presidential Directive 63. Those networks invite voluntary cooperation from companies within sectors for food and agriculture, financial services, chemical, emergency management, energy, telecommunications, real estate, transportation and water sectors, among others.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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