[ISN] White House asks companies for help with new government computer network

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Oct 11 2001 - 04:13:29 PDT

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    Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2001 
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- After one day on the job, the president's
    cyberspace security adviser asked computer companies Wednesday to help
    design a new secure telecommunications network for government use.
    Richard Clarke said he wants the network, called GOVNET, to be
    separate from the Internet to keep it safe from hackers or terrorists.
    Government agencies would use GOVNET for voice and data
    communications, and possibly for videoconferences presidential
    advisers have used since the Sept. 11 attacks.
    ``Planning for this network has been going on for several months,''
    Clarke said in a memo to the industry.
    The nation's counterterrorism chief for more than a decade, Clarke has
    pressed private industry to increase computer security by improving
    its own products.
    ``We'll be working even more with them in the future, to secure our
    cyberspace from a range of possible threats, from hackers to criminals
    to terrorist groups, to foreign nations, which might use cyber war
    against us,'' Clarke said Tuesday when his new job was announced.
    From his previous post at the National Security Council, he warned
    that America's fledgling Internet was vulnerable to a ``digital Pearl
    Harbor'' that could badly disrupt communications.
    Those warnings were echoed Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where experts
    told Congress that part of the problem is that current computer
    systems were not designed with security in mind.
    ``Security cannot be easily or adequately added on after the fact and
    this greatly complicates our overall mission,'' Purdue University's
    Eugene Spafford said. ``The software and hardware being deployed today
    has been designed by individuals with little or no security training,
    using unsafe methods, and then poorly tested.''
    The government relies on all types of technology companies -- for
    personal computer software to public telephone networks.
    Recent independent reviews have shown computers at many government
    agencies are open to a hacker attack. In theory, GOVNET would be
    impervious to outside assault -- particularly from lone young hackers,
    the most common Internet attacker.
    The chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert,
    said research and development on computer security has not kept pace
    with growing threats.
    ``To put it simply, we need more people to be doing more creative
    thinking about computer security. That's what our adversaries are
    doing,'' said Boehlert, R-N.Y.
    University of Virginia professor William A. Wulf said that because not
    enough government money is spent on computer security research,
    experts tend to be conservative. ``Out of the box thinking in an area
    of scarce resources doesn't get funded,'' he said.
    The GOVNET proposal could cost billions of dollars.
    The government wants the network up and running six months after a
    contractor is picked, although there is no deadline for the contract
    to be awarded.
    ``A system like this can help us break through the cloud of the
    Internet and provide a separate network where the integrity of
    government information can be protected,'' said Sen. Robert Bennett,
    R-Utah, a leader on computer security issues.
    Many parts of the government, including the CIA and the Defense
    Department, operate separate classified networks. Mark Rasch, a former
    Justice Department computer crimes prosecutor, said those networks
    could be expanded and integrated to form GOVNET.
    An additional challenge is that GOVNET would have limited value
    because it could not access the World Wide Web.
    A better way, Rasch suggested, might be to improve the ways sensitive
    information is encrypted and sent over public networks such as the
    ``We're not building new highways so we can move tanks and troops from
    one place to another,'' Rasch said. ``We build the highways so they
    can handle the transfer of both cars and trucks and, if necessary,
    tanks and troops.''
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