: views from the Hill

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Next Threat

Forbes' 20 Sep 2004 issue has an article [registration required] by Robert Lenzner and Nathan Vardi titled, The Next Threat. The article covers the damage a hacking cyberterrorist could do and the certainty that something is being planned along these lines. Is there a lack of vision in high circles?

Yet in the U.S. no urgent crusade has emerged to fix the flaws. The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, signed last year by President Bush, proposes a sweeping overhaul of U.S. networks. In it the White House's former counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, urged a wholesale reboot of government computer systems and new security rules for electric utilities and Internet access providers. But few of his proposals have been adopted, Clarke says. "All the regulated industries--the electric utilities, the gas pipelines and oil refineries, the water and transportation systems--are still vulnerable to cyberattack."

Washington lacks any consensus on what to do about the Net threat--or whether it even constitutes a threat. "The idea that hackers are going to bring the nation to its knees is too far-fetched a scenario to be taken seriously," asserts James Lewis, a former State Department and Commerce Department official. He has dismissed cyberterror in reports for the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The article ends as follows:

In the end, though, someone has to pay to stave off the bad guys; the question is whether American business will take the lead or wait for government--maybe--to force it to act. After the Sept. 11 attacks exposed gaping holes in airline security, the feds took control of the nation's 55,000 airport screeners. The new Department of Homeland Security formed the Transportation Security Administration, which awarded $8.5 billion in contracts and is requesting another $5.3 billion next year. Homeland's cybersecurity division, by contrast, will have a budget next year of less than $80 million.

If another unimaginable attack on America occurs, this time a devastating raid on our networks, what will Congress do? It will commission a panel to look into why we failed to anticipate the threat.

What madness is this?

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