WASHINGTON-President Clinton, pointing to the recent satellite failure that disabled millions of pagers, has taken steps to protect against unconventional threats to telecom networks and other critical infrastructure throughout the country.

“If we fail to take strong action, then terrorists, criminals and hostile regimes could invade and paralyze these vital systems, disrupting commerce, threatening health, weakening our capacity to function in a crisis,” said Clinton at the U.S. Naval Academy’s commencement recently.

One directive injects a program management approach to countering cyber attacks and establishes the office of national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism.

The other directive calls for a national effort to secure increasingly vulnerable and interconnected infrastructures for telecommunications, banking and finance, energy, transportation and essential government services.

Under the second directive, the National Infrastructure Protection Center is to be housed at the FBI, where representatives from federal agencies and the private sector can share information and collaborate on national policy.

In addition, the directive recommends the private sector consult with the U.S. government to develop an Information Sharing and Analysis Center. A National Infrastructure Assurance Council, comprised of business leaders and state and local officials, is suggested to provide input for the national plan.

The Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, meanwhile, would support the national coordinator’s work with federal agencies and the private sector on the plan and would perform outreach functions.

The United States wants its telecommunications and other critical infrastructure secure from attacks by 2003 and significantly increased protections for government systems by the year 2000.

A presidential commission headed by retired General Tom Marsh concluded that critical infrastructure in the United States are not equipped to fend off cyber attacks.

“In our efforts to battle terrorism and cyber attacks and biological weapons, all of us must be extremely aggressive,” Clinton commented. “But we must also be careful to uphold privacy rights and other constitutional protections. We do not ever undermine freedom in the name of freedom.”

The two presidential directives call for a close, working relationship between the public and the private sector.

Both the telecom industry and federal government have been hit by domestic cyber attacks in recent years. Hackers cost telecommunications carriers billions of dollars and can undermine national security.

The United States and other countries are developing new weapons, some radio frequency-based, for warfare in the new millennium.


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