His name may not appear in the media as often as his industry and government peers, but InfraGard’s Jerry Dixon is a key figure to count on when it comes to cybersecurity.
Dixon currently serves as vice president for government relations for InfraGard, FBI’s civilian watchdog that works to counter terrorism threats and protects critical infrastructure. Founded by the FBI in 1996 as a private, nonprofit organization, InfraGard’s mission was to gain support from the IT industry and academia for the FBI’s investigative work in the cyber arena.
The program expanded to FBI Field Offices nationwide, and in 1998 the bureau assigned national program responsibility for InfraGard to the former Washington, D.C.-based National Infrastructure Protection Center and to the cyber division in 2003.
At its most basic level, InfraGard works as a partnership between the FBI and industry, facilitating information sharing between the two. InfraGard members include businesses, academic institutions, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other participants dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to thwart acts against the United States.
In additional to working with the private sector, InfraGard caters toward its government partner. It provides the public sector with trusted critical infrastructures and resources information from the FBI and other InfraGard members, as well as gives the government an opportunity to interact and share information with the law enforcement community, academia, private industry and other federal agencies.
Initially, InfraGard’s focus was cyber infrastructure protection, but after Sept. 11, 2001, NIPC expanded its efforts to entail physical and Internet-based threats to critical infrastructures, expanding InfraGard’s mission.
Recently, the nonprofit has been taking steps to really reach out to citizens by joining in on DHS’ nationwide “See Something, Say Something” campaign. Citizens are asked to enlist as volunteers for the civilian watchdog to help its efforts to counter terrorism and keep the critical infrastructure protected. Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported yesterday how volunteer members are asked to file reports through a secure website portal, from which the FBI will collect the data and information and then assign investigative agents to take the matter further. Along with the “Say Something” effort, InfraGard volunteers are also advised to be on the lookout for suspicious online activity, around bridges and tunnels, and in highly suspicious overheard conversations.
And the importance of exchanging ideas is something Dixon stressed at a 2008 panel discussing the role of InfraGard, as reported by cnet.
“We’re not recommending to do away with InfraGard,” said Dixon, who then had been named director of analysis at Team Cymru Research NFP. “That’s something that the executive departments have set up… We’re certainly not recommending to do away with those different partnerships because they belong to the different departments.”