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[infowar.de] WT 19.08.02: (W.Clark): Vulnerability On The Cyber Front
Washington Times August 19, 2002 Pg. 16
Vulnerability On The Cyber Front
By Wesley Clark and Bill Conner
We are battling terrorism on all the traditional fronts land, air and sea.
Yet we have begun to realize that, as in every war of the past century,
advances in technology present us with new and vastly different fronts.
The next battle in the war on terrorism may be on the "cyber front." It
offers relatively easy opportunities for our enemies, given that our nation
now vitally depends upon computer and network infrastructures that control
everything from our electric power grids to financial institutions. We have
created vast, efficient systems that make our nation the envy of the world.
But the very networked nature of those systems means a single, stealth
attack launched from thousands of miles away could cause wholesale damage
and destruction of government and civilian infrastructures.
In fact, extensive economic damage could result from a successful cyber
attack and the attackers don't need visas, airline tickets or large amounts
of money to inflict considerable harm. One person skilled in manipulating
modest amounts of data, could potentially circumvent controls of a major
dam, shut down electric power to a large portion of the nation, cripple
emergency response communications in a major city, or disable aviation safety.
Yet our nation remains exceedingly exposed to cyber attack. America has
moved neither fast enough nor far enough to secure these systems. In fact,
a survey recently published by the Business Software Alliance points to
this serious gap in preparedness. It shows that nearly 3 of 4 IT
professionals, those closest to the cyber front, believe the federal
government is not sufficiently prepared to deal with a major cyber attack.
Are terrorists capable of a cyber attack? It is abundantly clear from
recent news stories that our enemies, including al Qaeda, know how to use
information technology to conduct covert communications (such as hiding
messages in otherwise innocent pictures). News accounts also have shown
they have indeed targeted our critical infrastructures for attack.
We need to quickly devise and implement a national cyber security plan, a
plan that is a partnership between the private and public sectors as
mandated by President Bush. It must include federal, state and local
officials, law enforcement agencies, the high-tech industry, researchers,
and the private companies who operate the infrastructures.
In partnership, this group must immediately identify vulnerabilities, large
and small, that could be exploited in cyber attacks. This clearly must be
the most immediate task undertaken when the Department of Homeland Security
is officially established. There then must be a concerted effort to devise
and deploy technology solutions with the appropriate policies and
procedures to targeted vulnerabilities.
At the same time, Congress and the federal government must allocate the
funds required for these solutions, and they must be implemented as quickly
as possible. And this must be done in a coordinated way, as envisioned in
President Bush's plan unveiled last Tuesday. We must ensure that government
agencies and the private sector be able to rapidly and securely communicate
with each other, and that security solutions and policies work effectively
across all our vulnerable systems, instead of a patchwork system that
creates its own vulnerabilities along the way.
The good news is that we don't need to undertake the information age
equivalent of the Manhattan Project to do this vital work. Much of the
technological innovation necessary the hardware, software and the
knowledge to implement them already exist. But now we must act decisively
to defend the nation on the cyber front.
Gen. Wesley K. Clark (U.S. Army, retired) is currently managing director of
merchant banking at the Stephens Group Inc., where he works in
high-technology venture capital. He previously was both the supreme allied
commander of the NATO forces in Europe and the commander in chief of the
United States European Command. F. William (Bill) Conner is chairman,
president and chief executive officer of Entrust Inc., a leading provider
of enhanced Internet security products and solutions with technology
deployments in more than 40 federal agencies and departments.
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