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Washington File

Cyberstrategy Page

15 February 2003

U.S. Issues National Strategy to Protect Cyberspace

(Goal is to defend critical information infrastructure) (2,950)

The White House has issued a National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace,
which identifies steps that government, private companies, and
individuals can take to protect the information infrastructure --
collectively labeled cyberspace -- that is critical to the security
and well-being of the United States.

These infrastructure areas include banking and finance, insurance,
chemicals, oil and gas, electricity, law enforcement, higher
education, transportation, information technology and
telecommunications, and water.

The report, issued February 14, 2003, identifies three strategic goals
-- preventing cyber attacks against America's critical infrastructure,
reducing national vulnerability to such attacks, and minimizing damage
and recovery time if cyber attacks do occur.

It also lists a number of initiatives to protect national information
systems. Among them: strengthening law enforcement in the cyberspace
realm, identifying vulnerabilities in infrastructure, improving
Internet procedures and digital controls, reducing software
weaknesses, increasing physical security, and setting an agenda for
cybersecurity research and development.

The National Strategy warns that making cyberspace secure is a
difficult challenge that "requires coordinated and focused effort from
our entire society -- the federal government, state and local
governments, the private sector, and the American people."

Nevertheless, the report concludes, "For the foreseeable future two
things will be true: America will rely upon cyberspace and the federal
government will seek a continuing broad partnership with the private
sector to develop, implement, and refine a National Strategy to Secure

Following is the Executive Summary of The National Strategy to Secure
Cyberspace, released by The White House on February 14, 2003:

(begin text)

The White House 
Office of the Press Secretary 
February 14, 2003
Washington, D.C.

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace
Executive Summary 
February 2003

The full report (in PDF format): 

Our Nation's critical infrastructures are composed of public and
private institutions in the sectors of agriculture, food, water,
public health, emergency services, government, defense industrial
base, information and telecommunications, energy, transportation,
banking and finance, chemicals and hazardous materials, and postal and
shipping. Cyberspace is their nervous system -- the control system of
our country. Cyberspace is composed of hundreds of thousands of
interconnected computers, servers, routers, switches, and fiber optic
cables that allow our critical infrastructures to work. Thus, the
healthy functioning of cyberspace is essential to our economy and our
national security.

This National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace is part of our overall
effort to protect the Nation. It is an implementing component of the
National Strategy for Homeland Security and is complemented by a
National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical
Infrastructures and Key Assets. The purpose of this document is to
engage and empower Americans to secure the portions of cyberspace that
they own, operate, control, or with which they interact. Securing
cyberspace is a difficult strategic challenge that requires
coordinated and focused effort from our entire society -- the federal
government, state and local governments, the private sector, and the
American people.

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace outlines an initial
framework for both organizing and prioritizing efforts. It provides
direction to the federal government departments and agencies that have
roles in cyberspace security. It also identifies steps that state and
local governments, private companies and organizations, and individual
Americans can take to improve our collective cybersecurity. The
Strategy highlights the role of public-private engagement. The
document provides a framework for the contributions that we all can
make to secure our parts of cyberspace. The dynamics of cyberspace
will require adjustments and amendments to the Strategy over time.

The speed and anonymity of cyber attacks makes distinguishing among
the actions of terrorists, criminals, and nation states difficult, a
task which often occurs only after the fact, if at all. Therefore, the
National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace helps reduce our Nation's
vulnerability to debilitating attacks against our critical information
infrastructures or the physical assets that support them.

Strategic Objectives

Consistent with the National Strategy for Homeland Security, the
strategic objectives of this National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace
are to:

-- Prevent cyber attacks against America's critical infrastructures;

-- Reduce national vulnerability to cyber attacks; and

-- Minimize damage and recovery time from cyber attacks that do occur.

Threat and Vulnerability

Our economy and national security are fully dependent upon information
technology and the information infrastructure. At the core of the
information infrastructure upon which we depend is the Internet, a
system originally designed to share unclassified research among
scientists who were assumed to be uninterested in abusing the network.
It is that same Internet that today connects millions of other
computer networks making most of the nation's essential services and
infrastructures work. These computer networks also control physical
objects such as electrical transformers, trains, pipeline pumps,
chemical vats, radars, and stock markets, all of which exist beyond

A spectrum of malicious actors can and do conduct attacks against our
critical information infrastructures. Of primary concern is the threat
of organized cyber attacks capable of causing debilitating disruption
to our Nation's critical infrastructures, economy, or national
security. The required technical sophistication to carry out such an
attack is high-and partially explains the lack of a debilitating
attack to date. We should not, however, be too sanguine. There have
been instances where organized attackers have exploited
vulnerabilities that may be indicative of more destructive

Uncertainties exist as to the intent and full technical capabilities
of several observed attacks. Enhanced cyber threat analysis is needed
to address long-term trends related to threats and vulnerabilities.
What is known is that the attack tools and methodologies are becoming
widely available, and the technical capability and sophistication of
users bent on causing havoc or disruption is improving.

In peacetime America's enemies may conduct espionage on our
Government, university research centers, and private companies. They
may also seek to prepare for cyber strikes during a confrontation by
mapping U.S. information systems, identifying key targets, and lacing
our infrastructure with back doors and other means of access. In
wartime or crisis, adversaries may seek to intimidate the Nation's
political leaders by attacking critical infrastructures and key
economic functions or eroding public confidence in information

Cyber attacks on United States information networks can have serious
consequences such as disrupting critical operations, causing loss of
revenue and intellectual property, or loss of life. Countering such
attacks requires the development of robust capabilities where they do
not exist today if we are to reduce vulnerabilities and deter those
with the capabilities and intent to harm our critical infrastructures.

The Government Role in Securing Cyberspace

In general, the private sector is best equipped and structured to
respond to an evolving cyber threat. There are specific instances,
however, where federal government response is most appropriate and
justified. Looking inward, providing continuity of government requires
ensuring the safety of its own cyber infrastructure and those assets
required for supporting its essential missions and services.
Externally, a government role in cybersecurity is warranted in cases
where high transaction costs or legal barriers lead to significant
coordination problems; cases in which governments operate in the
absence of private sector forces; resolution of incentive problems
that lead to under provisioning of critical shared resources; and
raising awareness.

Public-private engagement is a key component of our Strategy to secure
cyberspace. This is true for several reasons. Public-private
partnerships can usefully confront coordination problems. They can
significantly enhance information exchange and cooperation.
Public-private engagement will take a variety of forms and will
address awareness, training, technological improvements, vulnerability
remediation, and recovery operations.

A federal role in these and other cases is only justified when the
benefits of intervention outweigh the associated costs. This standard
is especially important in cases where there are viable private sector
solutions for addressing any potential threat or vulnerability. For
each case, consideration should be given to the broad based costs and
impacts of a given government action, versus other alternative
actions, versus non-action, taking into account any existing or future
private solutions.

Federal actions to secure cyberspace are warranted for purposes
including: forensics and attack attribution, protection of networks
and systems critical to national security, indications and warnings,
and protection against organized attacks capable of inflicting
debilitating damage to the economy. Federal activities should also
support research and technology development that will enable the
private sector to better secure privately-owned portions of the
Nation's critical infrastructure.

Department of Homeland Security and Cyberspace Security

On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed legislation creating the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This new cabinet level
department will unite 22 federal entities for the common purpose of
improving our homeland security. The Secretary of DHS will have
important responsibilities in cyberspace security. These
responsibilities include:

-- Developing a comprehensive national plan for securing the key
resources and critical infrastructure of the United States;

-- Providing crisis management in response to attacks on critical
information systems;

-- Providing technical assistance to the private sector and other
government entities with respect to emergency recovery plans for
failures of critical information systems;

-- Coordinating with other agencies of the federal government to
provide specific warning information and advice about appropriate
protective measures and countermeasures to state, local, and
nongovernmental organizations including the private sector, academia,
and the public; and

-- Performing and funding research and development along with other
agencies that will lead to new scientific understanding and
technologies in support of homeland security.

Consistent with these responsibilities, DHS will become a federal
center of excellence for cybersecurity and provide a focal point for
federal outreach to state, local, and nongovernmental organizations
including the private sector, academia, and the public.

Critical Priorities for Cyberspace Security

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace articulates five national
priorities including:

I. A National Cyberspace Security Response System;

II. A National Cyberspace Security Threat and Vulnerability Reduction

III. A National Cyberspace Security Awareness and Training Program;

IV. Securing Governments' Cyberspace; and

V. National Security and International Cyberspace Security

The first priority focuses on improving our response to cyber
incidents and reducing the potential damage from such events. The
second, third, and fourth priorities aim to reduce threats from, and
our vulnerabilities to, cyber attacks. The fifth priority is to
prevent cyber attacks that could impact national security assets and
to improve the international management of and response to such

Priority I: A National Cyberspace Security Response System

Rapid identification, information exchange, and remediation can often
mitigate the damage caused by malicious cyberspace activity. For those
activities to be effective at a national level, the United States
needs a partnership between government and industry to perform
analyses, issue warnings, and coordinate response efforts. Privacy and
civil liberties must be protected in the process. Because no
cybersecurity plan can be impervious to concerted and intelligent
attack, information systems must be able to operate while under attack
and have the resilience to restore full operations quickly.

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace identifies eight major
actions and initiatives for cyberspace security response:

1. Establish a public-private architecture for responding to
national-level cyber incidents;

2. Provide for the development of tactical and strategic analysis of
cyber attacks and vulnerability assessments;

3. Encourage the development of a private sector capability to share a
synoptic view of the health of cyberspace;

4. Expand the Cyber Warning and Information Network to support the
role of DHS in coordinating crisis management for cyberspace security;
5. Improve national incident management;

6. Coordinate processes for voluntary participation in the development
of national public-private continuity and contingency plans;

7. Exercise cybersecurity continuity plans for federal systems; and

8. Improve and enhance public-private information sharing involving
cyber attacks, threats, and vulnerabilities.

Priority II: A National Cyberspace Security Threat and Vulnerability
Reduction Program

By exploiting vulnerabilities in our cyber systems, an organized
attack may endanger the security of our Nation's critical
infrastructures. The vulnerabilities that most threaten cyberspace
occur in the information assets of critical infrastructure enterprises
themselves and their external supporting structures, such as the
mechanisms of the Internet. Lesser-secured sites on the interconnected
network of networks also present potentially significant exposures to
cyber attacks. Vulnerabilities result from weaknesses in technology
and because of improper implementation and oversight of technological

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace identifies eight major
actions and initiatives to reduce threats and related vulnerabilities:

1. Enhance law enforcement's capabilities for preventing and
prosecuting cyberspace attacks;

2. Create a process for national vulnerability assessments to better
understand the potential consequences of threats and vulnerabilities;

3. Secure the mechanisms of the Internet by improving protocols and

4. Foster the use of trusted digital control systems/supervisory
control and data acquisition systems;

5. Reduce and remediate software vulnerabilities;

6. Understand infrastructure interdependencies and improve the
physical security of cyber systems and telecommunications;

7. Prioritize federal cybersecurity research and development agendas;

8. Assess and secure emerging systems.

Priority III: A National Cyberspace Security Awareness and Training

Many cyber vulnerabilities exist because of a lack of cybersecurity
awareness on the part of computer users, systems administrators,
technology developers, procurement officials, auditors, chief
information officers (CIOs), chief executive officers, and corporate
boards. Such awareness-based vulnerabilities present serious risks to
critical infrastructures regardless of whether they exist within the
infrastructure itself. A lack of trained personnel and the absence of
widely accepted, multi-level certification programs for cybersecurity
professionals complicate the task of addressing cyber vulnerabilities.

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace identifies four major
actions and initiatives for awareness, education, and training:

1. Promote a comprehensive national awareness program to empower all
Americans-businesses, the general workforce, and the general
population- to secure their own parts of cyberspace;

2. Foster adequate training and education programs to support the
Nation's cybersecurity needs;

3. Increase the efficiency of existing federal cybersecurity training
programs; and

4. Promote private-sector support for well-coordinated, widely
recognized professional cybersecurity certifications.

Priority IV: Securing Governments' Cyberspace

Although governments administer only a minority of the Nation's
critical infrastructure computer systems, governments at all levels
perform essential services in the agriculture, food, water, public
health, emergency services, defense, social welfare, information and
telecommunications, energy, transportation, banking and finance,
chemicals, and postal and shipping sectors that depend upon cyberspace
for their delivery. Governments can lead by example in cyberspace
security, including fostering a marketplace for more secure
technologies through their procurement.

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace identifies five major
actions and initiatives for the securing of governments' cyberspace:

1. Continuously assess threats and vulnerabilities to federal cyber

2. Authenticate and maintain authorized users of federal cyber

3. Secure federal wireless local area networks;

4. Improve security in government outsourcing and procurement; and

5. Encourage state and local governments to consider establishing
information technology security programs and participate in
information sharing and analysis centers with similar governments.

Priority V: National Security and International Cyberspace Security

America's cyberspace links the United States to the rest of the world.
A network of networks spans the planet, allowing malicious actors on
one continent to act on systems thousands of miles away. Cyber attacks
cross borders at light speed, and discerning the source of malicious
activity is difficult. America must be capable of safeguarding and
defending its critical systems and networks. Enabling our ability to
do so requires a system of international cooperation to facilitate
information sharing, reduce vulnerabilities, and deter malicious

The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace identifies six major
actions and initiatives to strengthen U.S. national security and
international cooperation:

1. Strengthen cyber-related counterintelligence efforts;

2. Improve capabilities for attack attribution and response;

3. Improve coordination for responding to cyber attacks within the
U.S. national security community;

4.Work with industry and through international organizations to
facilitate dialogue and partnerships among international public and
private sectors focused on protecting information infrastructures and
promoting a global "culture of security;"

5. Foster the establishment of national and international
watch-and-warning networks to detect and prevent cyber attacks as they
emerge; and

6. Encourage other nations to accede to the Council of Europe
Convention on Cybercrime, or to ensure that their laws and procedures
are at least as comprehensive.

A National Effort Protecting the widely distributed assets of
cyberspace requires the efforts of many Americans. The federal
government alone cannot sufficiently defend America's cyberspace. Our
traditions of federalism and limited government require that
organizations outside the federal government take the lead in many of
these efforts. Every American who can contribute to securing part of
cyberspace is encouraged to do so. The federal government invites the
creation of, and participation in, public-private partnerships to
raise cybersecurity awareness, train personnel, stimulate market
forces, improve technology, identify and remediate vulnerabilities,
exchange information, and plan recovery operations.

People and organizations across the United States have already taken
steps to improve cyberspace security. On September 18, 2002, many
private-sector entities released plans and strategies for securing
their respective infrastructures. The Partnership for Critical
Infrastructure Security has played a unique role in facilitating
private-sector contributions to this Strategy. Inputs from the
critical sector's themselves can be found at http://www.pcis.org.
(These documents were not subject to government approval.)

These comprehensive infrastructure plans describe the strategic
initiatives of various sectors, including:

-- Banking and Finance;

-- Insurance;

-- Chemical;

-- Oil and Gas;

-- Electric;

-- Law Enforcement;

-- Higher Education;

-- Transportation (Rail);

-- Information Technology and Telecommunications; and

-- Water.

As each of the critical infrastructure sectors implements these
initiatives, threats and vulnerabilities to our infrastructures will
be reduced.

For the foreseeable future two things will be true: America will rely
upon cyberspace and the federal government will seek a continuing
broad partnership with the private sector to develop, implement, and
refine a National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)


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