Bush Urged By Alliance Group to Increase Cyber Security

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON – Cyber Security Industry Alliance has called upon President Bush to ramp-up cyber security efforts over the next four years, after exhibiting what administration critics call a "poor record" of protecting the nation's Internet infrastructure from viruses, hackers and terrorist threats.

The CSIA consists of technology industry heavyweights Symantec, Juniper Networks, Computer Associates, Entrust and McAfee.

"What happens if the Internet drops out below us?" said Paul Kurtz, executive director of the CSIA. "We haven't really thought those issues through as a country."

Kurtz stressed that the U.S. government does not currently have protocols and procedures in place if such a large-scale attack were to occur.

The call to action follows the issuance of a report from the Department of Homeland Security detailing recommendations to Congress for increasing the government's strategy to cyber attacks, including developing budgets, outreach, performance improvement and research and development.

"Many of the threats faced by this country are ones we cannot see, but that are devastating to our society," said Sen. Jim Turner (D-Texas). "We must be vigilant in our efforts to ensure the safety of information by promoting cooperation between the private sector and government. Security gaps exist that can be exploited by our terrorist enemies, but closing these gaps provide an opportunity for a safer country."

Claiming that lax cyber security is costing consumers and corporations billions of dollars and "stifling Internet innovation," the CSIA presented Bush with a 12-point program, encouraging the president to make bigger investments in Internet technology and to make security a greater concern during his second term.

Among CSIA's recommendations is a request to increase the cyber security research budget, to appoint a federal agency to track the cost of cyber crime, and to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime, which the United States signed in 2001 and didn't present to the Senate until two years later.

The CSIA also asked for a task force to secure utility company systems in the event of a terrorist attack and to develop a protective network that would protect the nation's critical infrastructure of financial networks, travel and security systems from being disabled by outside forces.

"It's time that cyber security gets a bigger play," Kurtz said. "I'm not trying to paint the White House into a corner. I'm trying to be constructive and point it down the road."

In a likeminded move, members of the House Select Homeland Security Committee have recommended establishing a new assistant secretary position within the Homeland Security Department to better integrate and coordinate cyber security issues.