U.S. moves on hacker threats By Torsten Busse InfoWorld Electric Posted at 3:07 PM PT, Mar 5, 1998 U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has announced an interagency effort to track and analyze electronic threats to the nation's critical infrastructures, such as communications, transportation, and energy networks. The new National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), headed by Associate Deputy Attorney General Michael Vatis, will include the Computer Investigations and Infrastructure Threat Assessment Center of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, and will add real-time intrusion-detection capabilities for cyberattacks directed at various national, electronic infrastructures. "Our telecommunications systems are more vulnerable than ever before as we rely on technology more than ever before," Reno said. The NIPC will coordinate the efforts of a number of government agencies in setting up and operating defenses against cyberspace intrusions from both inside and outside the borders of the United States. Effective defense will depend on that cooperation, Reno said. Reno will ask the U.S. Congress to commit $64 million for the NIPC in fiscal year 1999, a sum that will allow the establishment of six additional computer investigation centers in U.S. cities. The private sector will also have a vital role to play in the electronic defense, Reno said. She called for direct electronic links between the private sector and law enforcement agencies in what she termed a "significant departure" from established procedures. However, those closer links must be set up within the confines of the U.S. Constitution and cannot infringe on individual rights and confidentiality, she said. The dimensions of the threat will also require international collaboration, given the possibility that someone "can sit in the kitchen in St. Petersburg, Russia, and can steal money from a bank in New York," Reno said. "Cyberspace crosses borders." One of law enforcement agencies' biggest challenges currently is to understand the origin of a cyberattack, Reno said. This includes determining whether an attack is domestic or international, and whether it is the work of a terrorist, a foreign state, a juvenile trying to crack the latest firewall, or a disgruntled worker getting back at a supervisor, she said. For that reason, the NIPC will strive to set up procedures that will best allow government agencies to analyze the nature and origin of the attacks and to assign responsibility to the appropriate agency in a speedy manner. It will also be in charge of developing the means and methods of sharing information and equipment among agencies. The NIPC will also develop training programs for state and local agencies, which Reno said are on the front line against cyberattacks. "Criminals today have guns," Reno said. "Soon they will have computers and other weapons of mass destruction." Reno also set up a special working group at the Department of Justice to streamline research and development efforts aimed at cybercrimes. Initially the NIPC, which will be housed at FBI headquarters, will employ 85 FBI agents and 40 employees from the Secret Service and the departments of Defense, Transportation, and Energy, said Kenneth Geide, the deputy chief of NIPC. Eventually, the center will add employees from other federal agencies and the private sector. Funding mechanisms have not yet been finalized. In October 1997, the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection recommended that the government field a real-time warning capability modeled upon the military's air-defense and missile-warning system. Torsten Busse is a San Francisco correspondent for the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Apr 13 2001 - 13:06:09 PDT