The InfraGard® program turned 25 years old last year.
While the FBI is recognized throughout the world as a preeminent national security organization, many may be surprised to learn of this unique partnership between the FBI and members of the private sector that was established to protect U.S. critical infrastructure.
InfraGard now has over 80,000 members nationwide, a growth trend that has been mirrored by a steady increase in threats to the nation. From the devastating 9/11 terror attacks and spike in domestic violent extremism to economic espionage and the meteoric rise of cyberspace as the new battle frontier, public/private partnerships such as InfraGard are needed now more than ever.
The private sector component of the InfraGard program is represented by InfraGard National Members Alliance (INMA), an FBI-affiliated independent nonprofit organization. INMA is comprised of 77 localized non-profit organizations called InfraGard Members Alliances (IMAs) and represents the IMAs in relations with the FBI and other federal and private sector agencies and entities.
Impressive numbers, certainly. But what is InfraGard's impact, in real-world terms? It helps members address risk, including cyber risk.
"InfraGard represents the premise that safety and security is a shared responsibility between private industry and law enforcement," said Sandy Moul, Executive Director of InfraGard National Members Alliance. "When the program was established in 1996, the idea of InfraGard was truly ahead of its time. But in the 26 years since, collaboration with the American business community has become paramount. Because that's where our country's nervous system is. Our national security interests, economic infrastructure, technology and innovation, and public health and safety largely rest within private industry. Not surprisingly, that's also where you'll find the threats."
Protecting the foundation of American life: 16 critical infrastructure sectors
In the InfraGard world, the advancement of national security means helping to secure a long list of critical infrastructure sectors in the United States.
"The private sector owns and operates 85% of our nation’s critical infrastructure, which truly is the foundation of American life," Moul said. "From energy, food, water, and roadways to banks, schools, hospitals, and the internet, our society is completely dependent upon critical infrastructure. InfraGard members, in their roles as security leaders and practitioners, have a disproportionately high level of responsibility for securing the American people."
Oftentimes, we think of critical infrastructure as simply pipelines and power grids. But there are 16 critical infrastructure sectors that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:
• Commercial Facilities
• Critical Manufacturing
• Defense Industrial Base
• Emergency Services
• Financial Services
• Food and Agriculture
• Government Facilities
• Healthcare and Public Health
• Information Technology
• Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste
• Transportation Systems
• Water and Wastewater Systems
Currently, the IT sector has the highest number of members in InfraGard, followed by the financial services and healthcare/public health sectors.
SecureWorld is proud to partner with InfraGard National Members Alliance, InfraGard Members Alliances, and speakers who regularly share their insights at SecureWorld conferences.
The InfraGard model: education, networking, and information sharing
Security begins in hometowns across America. Each of the 77 local InfraGard chapters is affiliated with one of the FBI's 56 U.S. field offices, providing working partnerships that address the security threats of their respective localities. From coast to coast and border to border, InfraGard chapters are producing educational programs, training events, and information sharing initiatives that equip security stakeholders with knowledge and tools that are highly relevant to their jobs.
These meetings and events often include briefings from FBI agents and subject matter experts on timely threats and sector-specific issues. Cybersecurity is a primary focus, with topics including ransomware, business email compromise, and much more.
"I think it's all about critical core communication between the different groups," says Gene Kingsley, Vice President of InfraGard National Members Alliance. "Communication is strength and allows the latest threats to be made transparent to the right people."
The InfraGard National Sector Security and Resiliency Program (NSSRP) is a key part of this. The NSSRP creates and sustains a "network-of-networks" to foster collaboration and information sharing among and between owners, operators, and participants of critical infrastructure within individual sectors.
The program includes a National Sector Chief for each sector, such as Defense Industrial Base or Information Technology.
"The NSSRP is critical to our membership growing its partnership with the FBI," Kingsley said.
InfraGard: a tool for you and your organization?
If you work in one of the critical infrastructure sectors discussed earlier, why might you consider joining InfraGard as the group gains momentum for its next 25 years?
InfraGard National Members Alliance's senior leadership sees it like this:
"Why would you want to be an InfraGard member?" Kingsley said. "If you're a United States citizen and you care about the future of our nation and our ability to be viable in every aspect that matters, you should become an InfraGard member."
Moul said: "We are fortunate to have an incredible sense of mission. The United States, and the principles it represents, are worthy of the highest levels of protection. InfraGard is a unique opportunity to give back to our nation, our fellow citizens, and the ideals we hold dear. We invite others to join us in this extraordinary pursuit."
To view membership requirements and submit an application to join InfraGard, click here.
Don't forget to register for the upcoming virtual SecureWorld Government conference on June 23 to hear real-world experiences and practical advice from the Secret Service, CISA, and other government agencies.