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CONGRESSMAN SHERWOOD BOEHLERT (R-NY)

OPENING STATEMENT FOR COMPUTER SECURITY HEARING

October 11, 2001

 

            It’s a pleasure to welcome everyone here today to discuss the fascinating and troubling issue of computer security.

            The events of September 11th have made all Americans more conscious of security issues.  Our job in Congress is to ensure that we are focusing adequate attention and resources on security matters while at the same time preserving the openness that is the hallmark of American society.  It’s not an easy balance to achieve, and we need to guard against the worst kinds of failures – those that will leave us more encumbered but no more secure.

            In talking to experts on matters within this Committee’s jurisdiction, the security issue that came up repeatedly was computer security.  It’s easy to state the problem in general terms:  American society has become vastly more dependent on computers and the Internet in recent years, making us more vulnerable to criminal or terrorist attacks on our computer networks.  Yet research and development on computer security have not kept pace with the growing significance of the threat.

            But laying out the problem is easier than figuring out what to do about it.  So today we’ll hear from a variety of experts who will guide us as we decide what legislative and other steps are needed to increase the focus on computer security, in terms of R&D, risk assessment and implementation.

            For starters, it’s clear that we have to devote greater resources – not only money, but also our individual and collective attention – to computer and especially network security. 

To put it simply, we need more people to do be doing more creative thinking about computer security.  That’s what our adversaries are doing. 

I’m pleased that the President has taken some initial steps in this direction by appointing Dr. Richard Clarke as a Special Advisor for Cybersecurity.  I anticipate working with Dr. Clarke and with my good friend Governor Tom Ridge on these issues, and also with Dr. Jack Marburger, whose confirmation hearing I testified at yesterday.  We will never have the coordinated, focused federal effort on computer security that we need without clear, firm and continuing guidance from the White House.

We will also be providing continuing guidance of our own.  We expect to have another hearing on computer security next week, and intend to follow up with legislation.  In addition, the Committee will hold a hearing later this month examining security issues regarding our nation’s physical infrastructure, including water supplies. 

            And, of course, our Committee is hardly alone in focusing on this issue.  I want to especially note the work of our Committee member Lamar Smith, who has held three hearings on cybercrime in his Judiciary subcommittee this year.

            The purpose of our hearings is not  to gain attention or to spread frightening scenarios – which, by their very nature, are virtually limitless.  We want to focus on real, concrete problems and develop specific solutions.  I’m optimistic that this hearing will help us do just that.

           

            As I introduce today’s distinguished witnesses, I want to extend a special welcome to Special Agent Bob Weaver of the Secret Service. 

 

Bob and his team on the New York Electronic Crimes Task Force were located at 7 World Trade Center and was directly touched by the tragic events of Sept. 11.  Thankfully, all Task Force members have been accounted for and are safe.  Welcome Bob – thanks for being here.

The Task Force has been at the forefront of the effort to combat all forms of electronic crime, especially the financial networks that support terrorism.  I’m proud to note that the National Institute of Justice’s CyberScience Laboratory at Rome, New York in my district is a key partner in the Task Force.  The Laboratory has been working with the Task Force in the days since September 11 to get things up and running again, to help track down the financial assets of terrorists. 

Until the tragic events of September 11 intervened, New York Governor Pataki had been planning a National Cybercrime – Cyberterrorism Summit, which was to have taken place in the financial district next week.  The summit is being rescheduled for early next year and I applaud the foresight and leadership of Governor Pataki and look forward to participating.

Our other witnesses this morning are among the nation’s leaders in computer science.


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