WASHINGTON, April 10 The U.S. government on
Thursday urged companies to share information with each other
about cyber threats and issued guidance making clear that doing
so would not violate antitrust laws.
The new push comes as many top retailers and other companies
have suffered major data breaches. Most recently, the
"Heartbleed" bug was found to have exposed personal data to
hackers, prompting Facebook Inc, Google and
others to take steps to mitigate the impact on their users.
"Legitimate cyber threat sharing can help secure the
nation's networks," James Cole, the No. 2 official at the U.S.
Justice Department, told reporters in a briefing on new guidance
the agency issued along with the Federal Trade Commission.
If companies don't discuss competitive information such as
pricing or output when sharing cybersecurity details, they will
not run afoul of antitrust laws, the head of the Justice
Department's antitrust division, Bill Baer, said.
Cole said he had heard concerns from some companies that
they felt restricted in sharing details of cyber threats with
others because of antitrust concerns, but declined to name the
companies or discuss specific problems that had arisen.
Better sharing of cyber threat information among companies
as well as between the private sector and the government have
been a top concern in the U.S. government's effort to bolster
the cyber defenses of the nation's critical industries.
As part of the effort, President Barack Obama last year
signed an executive order, making it easier for companies to
access data about online threats that is held by the government,
among other things.
The government in February also introduced standards meant
to help companies in nationally critical industries better
defend against cyber attacks, though it is unclear how widely
the voluntary measures are being adopted.
Several high-profile breaches this year have put a spotlight
on corporate cybersecurity, particularly the massive theft of
about 40 million payment card records plus 70 million other
records, including addresses and phone numbers, belonging to
customers of No. 3 retailer Target Corp.
(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha and Alina Selyukh; editing by