[ISN] Making Homeland Security network hacker-proof poses challenge

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Fri Jun 20 2003 - 01:45:26 PDT

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    Associated Press 
    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 19, 8:33 a.m. PDT) - It's a task that
    would challenge even the sharpest of computer geeks: set up a
    hacker-proof computer network for 190,000 government workers across
    the country fighting terrorism.
    That's the challenge facing computer experts building a new system for
    the Homeland Security Department while keeping the existing network
    operational and secure.
    Technology will be a key to the success of the new system, which is
    expected to take years to complete, said Edward Kinney, director of
    information technology for Customs & Border Protection.
    Kinney spoke Wednesday at a conference that put government and private
    computer company representatives together to discuss security. He
    declined to provide specifics about the network.
    The Homeland Security Department became operational in February in the
    largest government reorganization since 1947. It merged 22 agencies
    scattered across the nation and in some foreign countries.
    The new department is charged with patrolling borders, analyzing U.S.  
    intelligence, responding to emergencies and guarding against
    terrorism, among other tasks.
    Computer experts have had to figure out ways for employees to share
    critical information while protecting that information from prying
    eyes that could compromise national security and trade secrets, Kinney
    "Now we can communicate securely and we can share information and
    documents with confidence," he said.
    But watchdog groups remain worried.
    The government needs to make sure information is protected because the
    new network creates serious privacy issues by allowing "virtual
    dossiers" to be compiled on employees, said Wayne Madsen, a senior
    fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
    "Until they have a mechanism to make sure there are no abuses, they
    should go slow putting this information into a database," he said.
    Department officials routinely test the networks to make sure they are
    hacker-proof, Kinney said.
    They also are focusing on government employees stationed overseas,
    such as U.S. Customs workers who must inspect cargo headed for the
    United States.
    "If we cannot bring goods and services across our borders, our
    economic security will be significantly impaired," Kinney said.
    Officials said it also has been a challenge to change the computer
    culture among government workers. For example, after the Sept. 11,
    2001, attacks, computer managers had to tell federal workers to stop
    e-mailing pictures of waving flags from unauthorized sites to their
    "It was a bad habit people got into, downloading from unauthorized
    sites," Kinney said.
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