We in the U.S. have all learned a lot since September 11.
We have learned that some things worked well in helping us to recover from the attack... and that some things will need considerable improvement. Collectively, we have all begun the never-ending process of preventing another similar attack.
Fortunately, in September 2000, most of the new InfraGard chapters in each of the 56 FBI field offices were holding their first meetings. Little did we know that this new networking partnership would become a critical vehicle for helping to spread the information relating to an attack that would take place just one year later.
At our first meeting in September 2000, I opened the meeting in Charlotte, NC by reminding everyone that InfraGard not only addressed Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 63 - Critical Infrastructure Protection (www.terrorism.com/homeland/PDD-63.pdf), but that it also addressed PDD 62 - Combating Terrorism (www.ciao.gov/CIAO_Document_Library/archives/WhiteHouseFactSheet_PDD62.htm). There were about 250 people in that first meeting, and I suspect that at least a few of them wondered why I even mentioned PDD 62. As we have seen in the past few months, each of us needs to become very familiar with both of these directives.
Every Successful Program has its Champions
For anything to work well, it needs people who believe in it and simply do whatever they can to 'make it happen.' InfraGard is no exception. As I reflected on the growth and success of the chapters, several key players came to mind. There were obviously many others, but these are the ones that I have first-hand knowledge of. I'm mentioning these people for a reason. Infragard is people, and it's good to recognize them so that others may be encouraged to do the same. I'm encouraging every current and new member to pitch in and make our InfraGard network just a little bit better.
SSA Doris Gardner is Ms. InfraGard in my book. She is the one most responsible for the rapid growth of the chapters in North Carolina (now the largest number of collective members in any state - take that as a hint and/or challenge). Throughout our first year, she made her entire computer crime squad available to us for training, networking, calling members and setting up the logistics of the meetings. We could not have asked for more support.
Dr. Phyllis Schneck was the founding chapter president of the Atlanta Chapter (www.infragard.net/chapters/ch_atlanta_main_pg.htm), and has now stepped up to be the co-chair of the entire InfraGard National Board. I have never met anyone with such energy. Her technical credentials are second to none, and she readily shares those talents with Infragard members and FBI agents throughout the country.
Don Withers is an example of how even a member of a small company can make major things happen on a national level. Long before he became the founding president of the Maryland Infragard Chapter (www.mdinfragard.org), he took on the job of starting the Mid-Atlantic Chapter (www.htcia-midatlantic.org) of the High Technology Crime Investigation (HTCIA) in 1994 where he was their first president.
Getting to Know Your Local Feds
One of the major benefits of attending Infragard meetings is the ability to meet and network with a number of federal agents. At several of the earlier meeting that I was presiding over in the Carolinas, I would ask a simple question: "How many people in this room have never met a Federal Agent?" At the first few meetings, I would see at least half of the hands go up. We did our best to ensure that none of our new members left without meeting the FBI agents who attended each meeting. I have learned over the years that people are much more likely to call with a question, problem or even a crime to report when they are calling a friend and not just an official sounding voice on the other end of the phone.
InfraGard in Action After Sept. 11
All of us here in America experienced many feelings that we have never felt before. None of us had ever experienced anything like this mainly because it had never happened before. It was very reassuring to have the Special Agent in Charge of all of the FBI agents in North Carolina immediately organize several special Infragard meetings to personally bring us up to date on the most available threat status. His name is Special Agent in Charge Chris Swecker, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that he has been a hands-on supporter of our local chapters from the first day that we met to organize them.
He opened the briefing by reminding us that our chapter held its very first meeting in September of 2000 just one year earlier. If the chapter and its network didn't exist, we wouldn't have been able to quickly bring together over 100 members in Raleigh, NC and over 125 members in Charlotte, NC to brief them on the worst terrorist attack that our country has ever experienced. As busy as every FBI agent was at that time, he still took the time to prepare briefings for our InfraGard members. That could not have happened if the network weren't already in place. It made us realize how much he really cared about us and our growing InfraGard chapters.
What Size Companies and Organizations Can Join InfraGard?
Obviously, there is no such thing as a company being too big to join, but there is also no such thing as a company being too small. Some of the most powerful get-it-done companies who are InfraGard members are from very small companies with less than ten people (in some cases only one person). The bottom line is that we can all help in big ways. The smaller companies see things through a different set of eyes than their larger counterparts. We can all help!
Come and Get to Know Us
There is an Infragard chapter (www.infragard.net) within a reasonable distance of most of us in this country. Several of these chapters are now hosting regional meetings. You can come and meet Dr. Schneck and SSA Doris Gardner at our Southeast Regional 2002 Summit (www.techsec.com/html/InfraGard-2002.html) on April 10 at Myrtle Beach, SC.
How Much Does It Cost?
This is not the best part, but it is important. IT'S FREE.
Until next time, stay safe out there.
Jack Wiles is president and co-founder of TheTrainingCo and is a 30+ year security veteran. He is also the MC of the annual International Techno-Security Conferences (www.techno-security.com/html/conferences.html). You can email him at email@example.com or find out more about him by visiting www.thetrainingco.com/biojackwiles.html
Other online articles by Jack:
Protecting Information Security with Physical Security, November 2001, SC Magazine
Securing the Future through Partnerships, November 14, 2001, InfoSecurity Opinion
VIRUS ALERT - I Just Got Nailed! December 12, 2001 InfoSecurity Opinion
U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force - We Need You! January 9, 2002 InfoSecurity Opinion