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IP: Cyberwar: Proper Vigilance Or Paranoia?
From: [email protected]
Subject: IP: Cyberwar: Proper Vigilance Or Paranoia?
Date: Tue, 06 Oct 1998 06:16:19 -0500
To: [email protected]
Cyberwar: Proper Vigilance Or Paranoia?
By Will Rodger
The last war was on land, air and
sea. The next one may be on
your computer. Armed with
reams of data showing dramatic
increases in computer crime since
1995, a wide-ranging but
little-noticed federal working
group is moving swiftly to try to
knit together a private and public partnership against
armies of hackers, government spies and terrorist agents
that could make cyberspace unsafe for democracy.
The fear: that no part of the industrialized world is safe
from digital disaster. Successful attacks on power grids,
hospitals, banks, farms, factories and railroad switches
could plunge a target nation into chaos and dysfunction.
Administration officials say this is no joke, ticking off
threats already encountered:
A 19-year-old Israeli hacker, known as the
Analyzer, and two California teenagers successfully
penetrate U.S. Department of Defense computers in
February, setting off fears that their intrusions are
related to U.S. troop buildups against Iraq.
Russian hacker Vladimir Levin breaks into Citibank
systems and steals $12 million in 1994. He escapes
arrest for one year, only to be brought to justice as
he gets off a flight to London and walks into the
arms of Interpol.
A study by network security specialist Dan Farmer
that shows more than 60 percent of 1,700
high-profile Web sites - many run by banks - can be
broken into or destroyed using a program he
designed to probe for weaknesses no system
administrator should allow in the first place.
At the center of the U.S.' attempts to create a
cyberdefense structure is the Critical Infrastructure
Coordination Group, an assembly of cabinet
undersecretaries and other senior officials sworn to work
with the FBI and American business to protect a society
that now depends on a safe, free flow of bits and bytes.
But even as the defense structure emerges, civil
libertarians, industry executives and even administration
insiders worry about how well the Clinton administration or
its successors can steer between protecting against all
forms of disruption on one hand and creating a police state
on the other.
Fears that police agencies will use the threat to gain
unprecedented power "reflect a misunderstanding of what
we're all about and what the administration is all about,"
said Michael Vatis, director of the National Infrastructure
Protection Center (NIPC) at the FBI. "We are structured
as a real partnership [between government and free
enterprise]. It's our own intention to bring people on board
from the private sector. We all say the same thing."
But James Adams, former chief executive officer of United
Press International and head of the newly formed
Infrastructure Defense Inc. consultancy, said government
must surrender more power first. "I don't think the
government can any longer say we know what's good for
you and we're going to take care of it. The government is
becoming increasingly irrelevant. I'm not arguing that's a
good thing or a bad thing - it's simply a fact."
Either way, bitter, seemingly endless disputes between the
administration and the people whose cooperation it needs
already have tainted the process of developing a national
approach to protecting critical information assets, both
sides said. A five-year battle over use and export of
data-scrambling technologies crucial to data security, for
instance, has alienated much of the computer industry. FBI
demands that telephone companies spend hundreds of
millions of dollars to make wiretaps easier to perform,
meanwhile, have led to charges of betrayal by phone
companies that claim they were promised more
compensation than they're getting, and civil libertarians who
say the new proposals invite abuse by rogue police.
As a result, what should be a cooperative effort to secure
the nation from outside attacks threatens to bog down in a
morass of mistrust and stony silence.
"Our members are scared to death of this whole program,"
a Washington association executive said, insisting on
anonymity. "You've got the FBI and the National Security
Agency pushing this thing. These guys are spies. Then there
are these 'private sector' groups springing up to coordinate
'information sharing' about how different companies have
these huge holes in their networks. Some of them are
headed by ex-Defense Department people. The whole
thing makes us paranoid."
Worse, still, the lobbyist said: The nation's chief computer
security organization - the secretive, estimated
50,000-employee National Security Agency (NSA) - is
the same one responsible for wiretapping and signal
interception everywhere outside the U.S. As long as the
world's biggest Big Brother has a major role to play,
business may be gun-shy of the program.
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