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[] 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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