[ISN] The Industry Standard: Feds Take Steps Against Threat of Cyber Terrorism

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Fri Sep 25 1998 - 02:09:45 PDT

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    Feds Take Steps Against Threat of Cyber Terrorism
    By Elizabeth Wasserman              =20
    The Soviet Union once aimed their missiles at U.S. nuclear silos. When the
    Cold War ended, terrorists struck at emblematic institutions such as
    airlines, foreign embassies and the World Trade Center. Now, as the world
    enters the Information Age, the nation's enemies may go after cyber
    That's why the federal government is in the first stages of assessing the
    nation's telecommunications and information vulnerabilities, anticipating
    that foes may look to strike Internet "network access points" instead of
    submarines and missile silos.=20
    Government officials and members of the private sector meet for the first
    time this Friday to start locating vulnerability points to potential cyber
    or physical attacks. The study, which may take years to complete, aims to
    recommend ways to eliminate those weak spots, create a system for
    identifying and preventing attacks, and prepare for attacks through
    training and education.=20
    This study stems from a presidential directive, signed in May, that
    created a Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office. The office will
    oversee the development of the first national plan to protect the services
    that the country depends on daily. But so many of those services =96
    transportation, banking and finance, electric power, emergency services
    and so on =96 are becoming increasingly reliant on telecommunications and
    information components.=20
    "It's kind of like a farmer who goes out after the winter storm looking to
    see where the fences are down and where the herd can get out," said Larry
    Irving, head of the U.S.  Commerce Department's National
    Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is overseeing the
    telecom study. "It is kind of like surveying the situation. This is a new
    frontier for us. There's a new infrastructure out there. And we're much
    more dependent on this infrastructure than we've ever been or ever
    expected to be."=20
    But Irving acknowledges that he needs the cooperation of private industry
    in order to conduct a thorough analysis of the infrastructure of a variety
    of industries: telephone, information technology, cable, satellite,
    paging, wireless, and even the broadcasting industry, which runs the
    emergency broadcast system.=20
    While the meeting (Friday at 2 p.m.  in Room 4830 of the Commerce
    Department Building in Washington, D.C.) will be open to the public, the
    results of the government study will not. In fact, in order to win the
    private sector's cooperation, government officials pledge that they won't
    keep information on file or divulge it to those who might exploit it.=20
    "One of the things have to do is identify and remedy the situation,"=20
    Irving said. "On the other hand, we want to make sure we're not putting
    information out there that could be used by terrorists or competitors.=20
    The last thing we want to do is create that road map."=20
    The high-tech and telecommunications industries have recently been at odds
    with government on such issues as the export of encryption technology, and
    laws requiring telephone carriers to modify their equipment so law
    enforcement can carry out wiretaps over digital switches. But Irving said
    he is trying to foster the spirit of cooperation with industry in a
    comparable way to the work being done to remedy the year 2000 computer
    And the private sector may not have much choice. U.S. policy-makers in the
    White House, on Capitol Hill and in national security roles say the threat
    of information weapons =96 coming not only from terrorist operatives but
    also from foreign governments =96 is a very real potential danger. The
    targeting of infrastructure facilities through the use of widely available
    cracking techniques could disable such network-connected services as
    electric power, banking and telephone. The vulnerability of both
    government systems and those in private industry has been underscored by
    the slew of attacks this year on everything from Pentagon computers to The
    New York Times' Web site.=20
    As the telecommunications structure is changing rapidly, Irving
    acknowledges that his agency's study will be a snapshot in time. But it
    will alert both government and private industry to the need for building
    protections into information and telecommunications systems. "We built an
    entire system of sidewalks with no curb carve-outs," he said. "If you're
    building the protections in as you go along, it's much easier."=20
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