Tech giants take seats on Homeland Security’s new supply chain task force

Homeland Security’s supply chain task force is finally off the ground.

The public-private coalition, set up earlier this year, now has representatives from more than two dozen companies and industry groups signed up to help the government try to combat risks faced by tech companies from threats in the supply chain.

Called the ICT Supply Chain Task Force, government officials hope to better understand to address security issues with global technology supply chains and make recommendations. By collaborating, the group aims to better understand the risks that companies face from industrial espionage, government interference and other cybersecurity issues that could pose a threat to U.S national security.

One of those new members is Cisco’s Edna Conway, chief security officer for its global value chain. She told TechCrunch that enterprises and governments “can no longer effectively identify, defend against and mitigate the risks across that global value chain in isolation.”

She, like others, have called for a group effort to tackle the threats they face.

The task force couldn’t come soon enough. Although the government has long known of supply chain threats, the group’s official formation comes in the aftermath of Bloomberg’s controversial claims that Chinese intelligence had infiltrated the server hardware supply chain with tiny chips. Bloomberg’s claims have been largely debunked — or not proven to the standard that many have called for. But it doesn’t diminish the long-known threat that the U.S. electronics and data industries face.

By working together, the task force aims to create policy recommendations that would incentivize businesses to buy hardware and software directly from original vendors and vetted resellers to reduce the risk of having an unknown, untrusted third-party in the mix. One of the end goals is to ensure that only the trusted vendors, which stick to a strict set of criteria laid out by the task force, will be qualified to bid for contracts.

“Cisco brings to the task force this collaborative spirit, a deep understanding of the operation of global ICT value chains and my expertise in shifting security and risk from ‘limiting damage’ to key enabler of business differentiation,” said Conway.

Cisco joins other tech giants and major telcos at the table, including Accenture, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, CTIA, CyberRx, Cybersecurity Coalition, Cyxtera, FireEye, Intel, ITI, IT-ISAC, Microsoft, NAB, NCTA, NTCA, Palo Alto Networks, Samsung, Sprint, Threat Sketch, TIA, T-Mobile, US Telecom and Verizon (which, as a reminder, owns TechCrunch).

They will be joined by representatives from Homeland Security, the Defense Dept., the Justice Dept., the Treasury and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, among others in government.

Homeland Security under secretary Christopher Krebs said that by bringing together representatives from the public and private sector, the task force has “a unique ability to confront today’s challenges by sharing information across government and industry in real-time and developing the ability to better plan for the risks of the future.”