- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

A group representing the computer-security industry called yesterday for the White House to show “greater leadership” in guarding the nation’s computer infrastructure from attacks by hackers and viruses, which it said were costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars a year and stifling innovation.

“To help stop this hemorrhaging, protect the critical infrastructure and enable the next round of innovation on the Internet, the administration must assert greater leadership in addressing cyber-security,” the Cyber Security Industry Alliance said.

The group said the government was not using intelligence assets to track and analyze threats to the nation’s computer networks, which are vital to its commerce, banking and transport.

“There is a strategic gap,” said the group’s executive director, Paul Kurtz. He said the private sector could track the activities of cyber-criminals or hackers, but did not have the resources or the skills to identify threats from other sources such as terrorists.

Mr. Kurtz, who worked cyber-security on the president’s Homeland Security Committee until earlier this year, said U.S. intelligence was too focused on threats to the physical infrastructure. “There is a bias in the analytic community towards physical threats,” he said.

The alliance white paper sets out 12 concrete steps it says the government needs to take, including establishing a federal agency to monitor the cost of cyber-attacks, and leveraging the power of federal government purchasing to raise security standards throughout the information-technology industry.

“There’s a lot of frustration in the industry,” Mr. Kurtz said, “but we have tried to be positive in our approach.” At the top of the agenda is the appointment of a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security to lead the nation’s efforts.

“It’s not a question of too many cooks,” he said. “Rather, there’s no executive chef. We don’t have a single official within the department with the programmatic authority to lead on this issue.” The department’s head of cyber-security, Amit Yoran, recently quit amid concern about the status of his post.

“The call from [the Cyber Security Industry Alliance] is the latest in a string of appeals from experts in the field for a higher-level official to steward this issue,” Mr. Yoran said. “The department should listen.”

“The department’s cyber-security program is not where it needs to be,” John Gannon, staff director of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said last month.

No one from Homeland Security or the White House returned calls by last night, but department officials have said that their strategy is to integrate physical and cyber-security into their infrastructure-protection division.

“Creating an assistant secretary is not inconsistent with that [integrationist] approach,” Mr. Yoran said. “I don’t understand their opposition.”

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