WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is expanding and making permanent a trial program that teams the government with Internet service providers to protect defense firms' computer networks against data theft by foreign adversaries.
It is part of a larger effort to broaden the sharing of classified and unclassified cyber-threat data between the government and industry in what Defense Department officials say is a promising collaboration between the public and private sectors.
"The expansion of voluntary information sharing between the department and the defense industrial base represents an important step forward in our ability to stay current with emerging cyber threats," Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense, said in announcing the move Friday.
Carter said that industry's increased reliance on the Internet for daily business has exposed large amounts of sensitive information held on network servers to the risk of digital theft. Corporate cyber-espionage has reached epidemic scale, experts and officials say, with much of the activity traced to China and Russia.
Begun a year ago, the Defense Industrial Base enhanced pilot program included 17 companies that volunteered to have commercial carriers such as Verizon and AT&T scan email traffic entering their networks for malicious software. Outgoing traffic that shows signs of being redirected to illegitimate sites is blocked so that it does not fall into an adversary's hands.
A study in November by Carnegie Mellon University said that the pilot program showed the public-private model could work but that initial results on the efficacy of the National Security Agency measures were mixed.