infrastructure protection: Who’s in charge
Statement of Frank J. Cilluffo
Threats Task Force
Homeland Defense Project
Center for Strategic & International Studies
U.S. Senate Committee on Government Reform
Center for Strategic and
International Studies . 1800 K Street, NW .
Washington, DC 20006
Telephone: (202) 887-0200
(202) 775-3199 .
Chairman Lieberman, Senator Thompson, and distinguished committee
members, it is a privilege to appear before you today to discuss
this important matter. I
would like to commend you for squarely facing this complex
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and
the Pentagon, the United States is confronted by harsh realities:
Our homeland is vulnerable to physical attack, gone is the sense
that two oceans provide protection.
But this is not only a US problem.
In many ways it was a blast heard round the world, the
reverberations of which will be felt for years to come.
It is widely accepted that unmatched U.S. power (economic,
cultural, diplomatic, and military) is likely to cause America’s
adversaries to favor “asymmetric” attacks over direct
conventional military confrontations.
These strategies and tactics aim to offset our strengths
and exploit our weaknesses.
The terrorists attacked highly visible symbols not only of our
military strength, but also of our economic prowess.
Though exceedingly well planned, coordinated, and executed,
the comparatively low-tech means employed by the terrorists raises
the possibility of a well placed bomb, a cyber strike, or worse
yet a more inclusive, more sophisticated, assault combining both
physical and virtual means on one, or several, critical
window of opportunity for implementing a comprehensive course of
action that will remedy existing shortcomings is rapidly closing.
As we will never be able to protect everything everywhere all the
time from every enemy – at least not in a democracy such as our
own – now is the time for clearheaded prioritization of policies
and resources. Unless we examine the problem in its totality, we may simply
be displacing risk from one infrastructure to another. We need to
approach the problem holistically, examining the dangers posed to
our critical infrastructure in both the physical and virtual
worlds and where they converge.
Infrastructures have long provided popular terrorist targets:
telecommunications, electric power systems, oil and gas, banking
and finance, transportation, water supply systems, government
services, and emergency services.
Destruction or incapacitation of these systems could have a
debilitating effect on US national and/or economic security.
This is a brief sampling of
terrorist attacks on critical infrastructures intended to frame an
historical context for the discussion.
In 1987, the LTTE attacked a telecommunications complex north of
the Jaffna tower, severely damaging or destroying the
sophisticated computer systems housed there.
This was part of an overall campaign to deprive the
residents of Jaffna of basic amenities, including public libraries
and telephone services.
Electric Power Systems
In 1997 IRA terrorists sought to bomb 6 National Grid Group
sub-stations, which would have cut off all power to the city of
London and the south-east. Had
this plot succeeded, it would have crippled hospitals,
transportation, emergency services, and vital computer links and
would have taken months to return full service.
A joint operation by MI5, Special Branch, and the
Anti-Terrorist squad thwarted the plan and resulted in the arrest
of top IRA conspirators.
Oil and Gas
In July 1996, Scotland Yard foiled an attack by the IRA
directed against gas and water plants in London.
The police arrived “in the nick of time,” arresting
seven people and confiscating 180 pounds of semtex.
Over a year and a half period between 1997 and 1998, there were
more than 160 attacks on Canadian gas wells, pipelines, and
have struck with various sorts of artillery, bullets, and bombs.
In 1999 there were 132 terrorist attacks against transportation,
16 more then the year before.
Of these pipelines lead the list, accounting for 78% of the
The FARC and the ELN have had great “success” in targeting
Colombia’s oil and gas pipelines.
According to the most recent State Department study,
Patterns of Global Terrorism, in 2000 the ELN carried out the
majority of the 152 attacks against the Cano Limon, Columbia’s
second largest crude oil pipeline.
As a result, Occidental Petroleum had to halt exports
through most of August and September.
The retarded growth of the Russian pipeline illustrates how these
security concerns can severely impact not only established
structures but also the development of new ones.
Banking and Finance
In 1992, the IRA bombing of London’s Baltic Exchange cost three
lives and caused over $1 billion in damage.
Building off of this model, they struck again in 1993, bombing
London’s “Square Mile, England’s financial center, again
inflicting over $1 billion worth of damage.
This bomb, detonated over the weekend when casualties would
be low, targeted British economic strength.
In April 1996, the LTTE drove a truck laden with explosives into
the Central Bank in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, killing 91
In July 22, 1968 the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine (PLFP) highjacked an El Al flight.
With the 1972 attack on Ben-Gurion airport, terrorists
graduated from attacking airplanes to indiscriminate bombings.
With focused efforts and diligence, the number of attacks
decreased, even as the overall number of terrorist incidents has
increased – demonstrating the value and possibility of hardening
hijacking of Air France Flight 139 in July 1976 by terrorists, and
its subsequent re-routing to Entebbe, Uganda, prompted a highly
successful raid by an Israeli commando team.
In the end, the hostages were freed, no ransom was paid,
and the terrorists’ demands went unmet.
In October of the following year, four terrorists (led by Zohair
Youssef Akache) hijacked a 737 bound for Germany from the Balearic
flitting around Europe and the Middle East, the plane was finally
landed in Mogadishu, Somalia.
While there, the “crack” German anti-terrorist unit
GSG-9, along with two British Special Air Services members on
loan, successfully stormed the aircraft and rescued the hostages.
Here too, the situation was resolved by the use of force
without payment of ransom. Following
these two successful counter-terrorist operations, terrorists
changed tactics, moving away from hijacking aircraft to bombing
Railroads and Trains
In 1995, an unknown group calling themselves the “Sons of
Gestapo” derailed an Amtrak train, causing it to plunge off a
30-foot high bridge and crash into a dry streambed 50-60 miles
from Phoenix, Arizona, by removing 29 spikes from the track.
Also in 1995, Aum Shinrikyo carried out their sarin gas attack in
the Tokyo subway system. Not
only is this attack significant because of it was an attack on the
transportation but also because it was the first indiscriminate
use by a terrorist organization using a chemical nerve agent.
Even threats can have a substantially
disruptive effect. In
April, 1997 IRA bomb threats alone shut
the city of London down. The
IRA detonated a real bomb at the Leeds station, without injury.
They then made a series of calls using the code words
designed to inform the police that it really was an IRA member on
the line, and shut down the King’s Cross, St. Pancras,
Paddington, and Charing Cross rail stations, the Jubilee subway
line, numerous streets around Trafalgar Square, Gatwick and Luton
Airports were entirely closed, and Terminal Three at Heathrow was
closed temporarily. In
essence, the IRA managed to shut London down by the mere threat of
Just last week, a bomb aboard the North
East Express, traveling between New Delhi and Gauhati, India
derailed seven cars and injured 100 people.
Though no group had claimed responsibility, authorities
believe it to have been the work of the National Democratic Front
In October 1985, four Palestinian terrorists hijacked the
cruise ship Achille Lauro and her 750 plus passengers.
They killed American Leon Klinghoffer, and then violently
threw his body and his wheelchair overboard.
Egyptian and PLO officials managed to negotiate a deal with
the terrorists in which they would be granted safe passage from
Egypt if they surrendered the ship and her passengers.
While en route, US fighter planes intercepted the plane,
forcing it to land.
Piracy accounts for 28% of the worldwide violent attacks carried
out against transportation in 1999, up 36% from the year before. Considering that 85% of the world’s good travel by ship,
those figure add up to substantial losses in a hurry.
In October of 2000, suicide bombers used
a shaped charge mounted on a skiff to kill 17 US sailors and wound
39 others aboard the USS Cole while at port in Aden, Yemen. The
bombing of the USS Cole continues to serve as another grim
reminder that terrorists will continue to probe and will strike
where they can.
Also in October 2000, the LTTE mounted a well-organized attack on
Trincamalee harbor, injuring 40 people and destroying two crafts
by guns and a large passenger craft by explosion.
These attacks are part of the overall attack and looting
campaign carried out by the Sea Tigers, the LTTE’s naval branch.
The fall 2000 report of the Intertagency Commission on Crime and
Security in U.S. Seaports highlighted that in terms of the threat
posed by terrorism “their vulnerability to attack is high” and
“such an attack has the potential to cause significant
In October 1987, a teenager threatened to blow up the Bonneville
Dam on Washington state’s Columbia River unless he received
$15,000. An FBI agent
shot and killed him. The
“detonator” turned out to be a cell phone.
In 1996, a Swedish man disabled portions of the US emergency 911
system in Southern Florida from his home in Goteburg.
And the list goes on. These
examples only begin to plumb the depth of what we have already
seen and intimate what is possible.
What if the terrorists had decided to crash one of the
planes into a nuclear power plant, a liquefied natural gas plant,
or an oil refinery? There
would be many more potential casualties as well as the dangers
posed by environmental concerns.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated that America’s
nuclear reactors would not be able to sustain an impact from an
airplane used of the kind used in the September 11th
attacks. Thirty-one states have nuclear power plants that supply
about 20 percent of the nation's electricity supply.
If one of these was hit not only would we need to deal with
the interruptions of electric power, but also with the cleanup and
pollution from the damaged reactor.
Bits, bytes, bugs, and gas will never replace bullets and bombs as
the terrorist weapon of choice.
Al Qaeda in particular chooses vulnerable targets and
varies its modus operandi accordingly.
They become more lethal and innovative with every attack
– the first attempt on the World Trade Center, the Khobar Tower,
the U.S. embassies in Africa, the USS Cole.
In light of this demonstrated escalation and flexibility,
we must shore up our vulnerabilities, and cyber threats are a
gaping hole. While
bin Laden may have his finger on the trigger, his grandson may
have his finger on the mouse.
Moreover, cyber attacks need not originate directly from al
Qaeda, but from those with sympathetic views.
For too long our cyber security efforts have focused on the
“beep and squeak” issues, and have been attracted to the
individual virus or hacker in the news, often to the neglect of
the bigger picture, incorporating the economy and beyond.
It is time to identify gaps and shortfalls in our current
policies, programs, and procedures, begin to take significant
steps forward, and pave the way for the future by laying down the
outlines of a solid course of action that will remedy existing
these lines, there have already been a series of actions taken,
some prior to September 11 and some post.
In particular, I applaud the creation of the new cabinet level
Office of Homeland Security, directed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom
Ridge. It is my
understanding that a comprehensive review will be completed by
next week, which will set out the office’s roles, missions, and
will then have a better sense of the explicit roles and
responsibilities pertaining to homeland security and how they
pertain to critical infrastructure protection – perhaps most
notably continuity of operations and continuity of government
This attack was a transforming event.
We cannot examine past precedent as to what had and had not
worked before because we now have a new frame of reference, one
that requires a new outlook.
Because this is a top priority issue, organizational
charts, titles, and line items, historic emblems of bureaucratic
power, fade into the background.
Governor Ridge will have the ammunition required to carry
out his mission because it has the full confidence and backing of
the President. But
even an undertaking of this importance takes some time to move
from concept to capability. Once the immediacy of the problem has settled into routine,
several months hence, we should consider codifying and
institutionalizing its mission with congressional legislation and
additional statutory authority if needed.
Prior to the events of 11 September, the executive branch was
drafting a new National Plan and Strategy to provide guidance and
direction for cyber security, scheduled for release by year’s
end. Likewise, an Executive Order (EO) on the same subject,
entitled “Critical Infrastructure Protection in the Information
Age,” was near completion and efforts are underway to ensure
that it jibes with the other initiatives. And, in his first
National Security Presidential Decision (NSPD 1), promulgated on
March 5, 2001, President Bush emphasized that national security
also depends on America’s opportunity to prosper in the world
economy. Indeed, cyber security lies at the core of our economic
prosperity, which is our “nerve center” – and President Bush
and his team should be congratulated for having taking new steps
on this front.
As both the Executive branch and Congress consider how best to
proceed in this area, we should not be afraid to wipe the slate
clean and review the matter with fresh eyes. We need to be willing
to press fundamental assumptions of national security.
Cyber threats and information assurance are cross-cutting
issues, but government is organized along vertical lines.
Though it is crucial to conduct our review with a critical
eye, it is equally important to adopt a balanced viewpoint – one
that appreciates both how far we have come and how far we have to
Fortunately, centers of excellence do exist – both in government
and the private sector - and we should leverage and build on them.
Only now, with the requisite amount of water under the proverbial
bridge, have we amassed sufficient knowledge and experience to
formulate the contours of a comprehensive cyber security strategy.
It is essential that any strategy encompass prevention,
preparedness and incident response, vis-à-vis the public and
private sectors, as well as the interface between them.
Such a strategy would generate synergies and result in the whole
amounting to more than simply the sum of the parts (which is not
presently the case). Such an approach would also offer enhanced
protection for the “nerve center” that is the U.S. economy.
A Brief Snapshot
Information technology’s impact on society has been profound
and touches everyone, whether we examine our economy, our quality
of life, or our national security. Along with the clear rewards
come new risks and a litany of unintended consequences that need
to be better understood and managed by our industry and government
Unfortunately, our ability to network has far outpaced our ability
to protect networks. The
events of September 11 are a marked counterpoint to the daily
invasion through cyberspace.
There is no shortage of examples of our vulnerability,
based on past red team exercises. Likewise, demonstrated
capabilities – fortunately, without truly nefarious intent –
are also in evidence. Already, we have seen a young man in Sweden
disable portions of the emergency 911 system in Southern Florida
and a Massachusetts teenager disable communications to an aviation
Fortunately, however, we have yet to see the coupling of
capabilities and intent (aside from foreign intelligence
collection and surveillance), where the really bad guys exploit
the real good stuff and become more techno-savvy.
It is only a matter of time before the convergence of bad
guys and good stuff occurs. We
must develop the means to mitigate risk in an electronic
environment that knows no borders.
Against this background, we need a true national debate on
infrastructure assurance, and we need to re-think national
security strategy – and, by extension, economic security and our
nation’s security – accordingly. It can no longer be a case of
the government leading and the private sector following. In other
words, Silicon Valley and the Beltway, where the sandal meets the
wingtip, must stand side by side and on equal footing in
addressing these issues and formulating responses.
As to the specific question of “who’s in charge”, this is a
shared responsibility between the public and private sectors.
Building a Business Case
Government, industry, and individuals all have leadership roles to
play. Cyber security
and its implications for economic security represent twenty-first
century challenges. Twentieth century approaches and institutions
simply will not work. Instead, we need new organizations, novel
management practices, and an array of new tools. Though this is
not an area where government can go it alone, it can – and must
– set a good example. In fact, only through leading by
example can the government realistically hope for the private
sector to commit the sort of effort – in time and resources –
expected of them. And we need to be sure and set the bar high.
But, while government is eminently well suited to do certain
things, others are best left to industry to do. Put another way,
just as important as identifying what government should do is
identifying what it should not do. What follows below is an
attempt to put flesh on these skeletal statements in so far as
they relate to cyber security and its implications for economic
Before proceeding to focus on sector-specific (that is, public and
private) strategies, however, I would like to briefly lay out a
few general guiding principles.
In particular, a solid approach to critical infrastructure
protection and information assurance (CIPIA) must, in my view, be
centered on three “prongs,” namely: policy, technology and
people. Underpinning this triadic structure must be education and
awareness, and superseding it must be leadership. Without
leadership, the entire structure crumbles because policy
priorities are only sustained if political will and the necessary
resources support them.
Improving the Public Sector’s CIPIA Readiness
The starting point for the discussion here must surely be
Presidential Decision Directive 63, the May 1998 directive that
established the framework for tackling the critical
infrastructure/cyber security issue.
Among other things, PDD-63 established the National
Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), the Critical
Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO) and the National
Infrastructure Assurance Council (NIAC), as well as identifying
the “National Coordinator” (at the NSC) as the central
coordinating figure for the federal government.
The PDD laid out aggressive goals for improving federal
systems, incident warning and analysis, research and development
efforts, IT security worker skills, and cooperation among federal
agencies and with the private sector.
Unfortunately, this directive has proved to be long on
nouns and short on verbs. Put
another way, planning is everything – plans are nothing.
The time has come for implementation and execution.
But planning, implementation and execution are all complicated by
the fact that the government is presently organized along vertical
lines – even though cyber security constitutes a cross-cutting
mission. Among other things, this makes it difficult to assure
accountability. Against this background, we need to streamline and
re-adjust the workings of our public sector, and coordinate its
constituent components so as to increase efficiency, clarify
responsibilities and heighten accountability – all the while
bearing in mind that outreach to the private sector is equally
Successes enjoyed to date were often in areas without significant
budgetary implications or where the need for change was so
compelling that some work had to be accomplished.
Without strong budgetary authority residing in the National
Coordinator, many important items could not be accomplished and,
among other things, this made it very difficult to assess
responsibility or accountability when CIPIA readiness failed.
On a positive note, the Department of Defense (DOD) and
Intelligence Community have established a level of information
assurance readiness that is typically much more mature then their
civilian agency counterparts.
This is to be expected, as they have experienced the impact
of cyber attacks over the past decade and experienced many of
their own vulnerabilities. The
rest of the federal government will continue to benefit from these
DOD experiences and the solutions that DOD has crafted for itself.
These provide building blocks for the government to develop
its cyber security strategy.
The government must lead by example.
Without first having its own house in order, it cannot
provide the private sector with the necessary support or
encouragement essential to promoting strong CIPIA.
Seven recommendations for action in the federal government
(1) Leadership. Critical
to the federal government effort is having at its apex a single
individual or group endowed with the requisite powers and
responsibilities to make the system work.
To this end we need to appoint a senior government official
with clout or “teeth” - that is an Assistant to the President
for Information Security – whose efforts are supported by the
White House. This
senior official would have a small staff and use an interagency
working group to coordinate federal agency efforts and programs.
This position should be confirmed by Congress and among
other things would be empowered to issue directives regulating the
security of federal agencies IT systems; would hold budget review
authority on those portions of a federal agencies budget
concerning information technology or critical infrastructure to
ensure sufficient security funds are requested; and would conduct
audits/assessments to ensure federal agency accountability and
adherence to IT security standards.
This senior official would be responsible for reporting to
the President, and to the Congress, on the performance of
In addition, this senior official would be responsible for
developing an annual plan to identify crosscutting issues, have a
limited budget to begin to develop crosscutting government-wide
solutions, and ensure sufficient research and development efforts
The foregoing proposal, with its centralizing features, is
intended to streamline and replace the myriad of structures that
currently exist. Notably, a similar motive apparently underlies
the Executive Order that is currently being formulated. There
is a good chance that the EO will establish some sort of a board,
including a number of federal agencies and organizations, with a
chair and a vice chair from the private sector, with an eye
towards clarifying and delineating responsibilities in the area of
cyber security, and heightening accountability.
This may have two chains of command – one through the
National Security Advisor and the other through the Director of
the Office of Homeland Security.
(2) Risk Mitigation. A
key element in improving the computer security of federal agencies
is the need to rapidly respond to incidents or threats and repair
known software faults. The
federal government must implement a system to provide real time
information assurance vulnerability alerts to system
administrators, identifying possible attack techniques or targets
and known threat ISP addresses.
This system, which could leverage the less robust FEDCIRC
system already in-place at GSA, must be fully connected to the
defense department, intelligence, and law enforcement warning
systems and must also maintain good communications with private
sector operated warning centers.
An equally important risk mitigation effort in the federal
government is the efforts to rapidly identify, distribute, and
install software “patches” which are developed by vendors to
correct known flaws in operating system codes. The time period
between the distribution of the patch by the vendor and the
installation of the patch by the system administrator is the most
vulnerable time for an operating system, and the pace of this
installation must be increased.
Additionally, the federal government must work hard on the
development of automated tools to help with both vulnerability
alert distribution and automated pact identification and
Finally, to evaluate the effectiveness of the security management
and risk mitigation efforts at federal agencies, the central
office or board could have an “expert review team” at its
disposal. This “red
team” of 20-25 personnel with the requisite technical skills,
could be used to evaluate the cyber security over federal agencies
and provide feedback (government-wide) on the “best practices”
and common vulnerabilities they encountered.
In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that there ought to be
required, by law, an annual test of each agency’s
vulnerabilities and capabilities (with the latter assessing
their ability to respond to events). Further, based on the results
of the annual testing process, we could derive baselines that
would be applicable across the board, so as to hold all agencies
subject to the same standard of account.
(3) Warning. A
critical step towards coordinating federal agency readiness and
preparedness efforts is the construction of a centralized
intrusion detection and warning center.
Again, the FEDCIRC system could serve as a basis for this
system, but would require significant increases in personnel, and
budgetary and policy authority.
This center would serve a number of critical functions; it
would provide indications and warning of an impending attack for
all federal agencies; it would employ a federal agency
“infocon” system to establish readiness and preparedness
levels on federal agency information systems; it would house a
cyber incident response team to assist agencies in incident
management; and finally the center could play a crucial role in
the implementation of information assurance vulnerability alerts
and software patch alerts mentioned previously.
This center would serve non-DOD federal agencies, and would
work with and parallel the efforts of the Joint Task Force
Computer Network Operations that DOD has successfully employed for
the past three years.
(4) Standards. The
federal government needs to improve its standards in both the
management of information security systems and the procurement of
information technology systems.
In the area of security standards management, federal
agencies have requirements established in numerous documents
including OMB Circular A-130 and several laws.
The missing ingredient has been a strict auditing and
assessment system to enforce these standards.
Specifically, OMB has never been properly manned to
implement and enforce such an assessment system.
Frequent audits by GAO have demonstrated that, in the
absence of a tool to hold them accountable, federal agencies have
routinely failed to meet the standards laid out in A-130.
If the senior official called for above is given some
budgetary review over agencies IT programs, he will have the tool
to enforce audit and assessment findings, which would be conducted
by the “red team” mentioned above.
It would also be beneficial if the results of the audits
were provided to the President and Congress as a “report card”
to help keep the pressure on federal agencies senior leadership.
In the absence of this pressure, many agencies do not treat
information security as a critical or core agency mission.
Information technology system procurement standards are another
key public sector shortfall.
The government needs to have (or work with) a laboratory in
which IT products undergo a review and validation process, from
which GSA will then provide a list of acceptable products for
federal agencies to procure.
In the absence of such a procurement standard many federal
agencies continue to install information technology equipment with
little or no security components installed.
(5) Training and Education.
There are numerous components of information assurance
training and education that the federal government must continue
First, the public sector needs to raise IT security awareness
among the general federal workforce.
This includes the use of effective security techniques
(i.e. passwords) and the need to limit access to IT systems
without proper clearance. This
awareness training needs to be conducted on a recurring basis, and
be tied to an employee’s computer access.
Second, we need to continue to train and certify our federal IT
security workforce, and to the extent that this mission is
out-sourced, ensure that the contractor workforce meets the proper
training and certification standards for operating federal
these training and certification programs are easily available in
the private sector, and require very little tailoring for federal
Third, we need to continue to recruit and develop a skilled and
“current” IT security management workforce. While IT security
managers compose only a small percentage of our federal workforce,
these specialists are a rare group of worker and one in great
demand in the private sector as well.
The Clinton Administration’s “Cyber Corps” program
was a step in the right direction, identifying and developing
university information assurance programs, and recruiting students
directly from those few existing programs with scholarships for
federal service. An
unexpected challenge has been the small number of existing
information assurance programs, and the even smaller number of
students who were U.S. nationals and thus available for security
clearances and federal service. Efforts to develop academic
programs, and grow a generation of faculty, need to be closely
coordinated between the government, universities, and the private
sector, as all three will ultimately benefit from it’s success.
From the government’s perspective in particular, the aim would
be to attract the best and the brightest to public service for at
least a portion of their careers. Unless we succeed in doing so,
in the long run, our national security will suffer. Put another
way, recruitment and retention are, for the public sector, issues
as pressing as education and training.
To retain a trained and educated IT security workforce the federal
government will have to evaluate its retention and pay packages,
for these workers are in heavy demand outside the government as
well. We need to
introduce reward programs that would not only lay out a promotion
path but also establish recognition mechanisms separate from
promotion (as was done in Y2K), and we need to revisit the pay
scales for these relatively rare but highly prized information
(6) Reconstitution. One
area where little headway has been made is the effort to identify
public sector information systems, and determine how they will be
rapidly reconstituted following a successful cyber attack.
This involves not just the federal systems that support our
core agency missions, but also the private sector communication
and power systems on which the federal systems depend as well.
This reconstitution effort raises challenging questions of
public – private sector cooperation and coordination that may
involve the Defense Production Act and similar legislation.
This effort may also identify single points of failure and
needed remedies that could have significant budget implications;
as such more aggressive attempts to tackle the challenges of
reconstitution problem are warranted.
(7) Research and Development.
The federal government is only a small player in the
development of next generation information technology systems.
However, in the area of information security systems the
work at the DOE Labs and DARPA is still the cutting edge effort. As such, the public sector’s R&D efforts are crucial to
developing the “next generation” of IT system security, and we
must continue to ensure that the DOE and DOD budgets provide a
healthy environment for the labs to work in.
Additionally, the NSF funds much of the university-based IT
research that is looking at the “generation after next” and
can therefore impact the consideration of security in those
But the Government is not alone in this endeavor. The private sector is an indispensable partner in protecting
The Private Sector: A Crucial New Partner
The benefits from improving the CIPIA readiness of the Private
sector are two-fold. First we improve the resilience of our
economic infrastructure to cyber attacks and second, we improve
our federal government’s readiness, because so many critical
government functions are conducted on privately owned and operated
telecommunication, information and power systems.
Several important steps can be made by the government to support
the private sector’s CIPIA efforts.
(1) Encouraging Standards. Government can – and should
– also provide specific incentives to the private sector to
better protect its own systems. For instance, government could act
as the catalyst for the establishment of industry-wide standards
for information assurance in different business sectors, and could
establish liability limits against disruption of service for
companies using security “best practices.” Equally, tax breaks
or equivalent “credits” could be accorded to companies that
use certified safety products and enforce specific types of
security procedures. (The mechanism for certifying the safety and
effectiveness of security products should be the consensus product
of a private-sector dialogue that government should facilitate).
(2) Information Sharing. Government could also grant relief
from specific provisions of antitrust laws to companies that share
information related specifically to vulnerabilities or threats.
Notably, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been a
significant obstacle to public-private information sharing to date
because companies run the risk of having sensitive or proprietary
data compromised if it is revealed to the public, and fear damage
to shareholder confidence if vulnerabilities are publicly
acknowledged. Fortunately, FOIA-related obstacles are now being
recognized and addressed. Senator
Bennett in particular, should be commended for his leadership in
(3) Liability Relief.
Furthermore, government could provide extraordinary
liability relief to the private sector in the case of cyberwarfare
(similar to the indemnification authorities set up in the case of
destruction of commercial assets through conventional warfare).
Financial relief for digital disasters would have insurance
companies insuring to a certain level, with government intervening
in cases of massive outages or shutdowns. Likewise, a consortium
of insurance, software and hardware companies could create a pool
for reinsurance purposes.
Although quantifying risk in the cyber area is difficult because
of the lack of experience and actuarial data, insurance companies
should be encouraged to include in their portfolios limited
liability indemnification policies against cyber disruption. Here,
government should be the catalyst, not the enforcer, for the
creation of parameters and standards.
(4) Partnering with Federal Government. In addition to
“incentivizing” the private sector in the ways outlined above,
government should seek to solidify partnerships between the public
and private sectors. Already, under the auspices of the CIAO, the
Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security has brought
together hundreds of leading corporations and various federal
agencies to address the problems of infrastructure assurance. This
is a good example of a step in the right direction – but we need
to do more.
By way of illustration, we should try to improve public-private
cooperation through information sharing on: vulnerabilities,
warnings of ongoing attacks or threats, hacker modus operandi, and
solutions and defenses to established threats and attacks. In
doing so, we should try to learn from our experience with the
National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), which was not
always successfully viewed as the entry point for private sector
cooperation with the government. Looking to the future, we should
aim to leverage the NIPC’s strengths, its ability to conduct
complex cyber incident investigations and enforcement.
At the end of the day, the NIPC, as an initiative,
represents a good start – as a central focus for law enforcement
and incident analysis, but not the central point for all forms of
private sector cooperation.
Cross-sector cooperation on information sharing is especially
important because each sector has its own comparative advantage:
whereas government possesses the core insights on CIP from a
national security perspective, the private sector possesses the
core insights on information security management. With this in
mind, government should continue to assist the private sector by
interacting constructively with information sharing and analysis
centers (ISACs), which are sector-specific associations on the
industry side, and by continuing to facilitate cyber security
discussions within these various sectors (including banking and
finance, telecommunications, and information technology).
Key Issues and Challenges
The suggestions above are not exhaustive, of course. And, even if
it were possible to cover the field, it must be conceded that no
matter how concerted our efforts are, there will be failures,
whether in the public or the private realm. For this reason,
reconstitution and business continuity (that is, the restoration
of essential systems and services) is a matter that we cannot
afford to ignore. Indeed, continuity of operations and government
may be the key to deterrence: if we can restore our systems and
provide business continuity in relatively short order following an
attack, the incentive to engage in further attacks of the same
sort in future should be diminished.
Now more than ever, the public and private sectors need to
work together to ensure our nation’s continued health and
vitality. The private
sector needs to appreciate its role in protecting our nation and
The Internet truly became an invaluable tool during and after the
11 September terrorist attacks.
It proved a valuable tool for the government to disseminate
vital information and for businesses to continue functioning.
FirstGov.gov fashioned a special section to provide
information to the public in the form of links to relief services,
status updates, and federal and private organizations providing
public response and recovery services. The FBI established channels to receive information regarding
their investigations on their website.
Concerned citizens created a website where people could
post and people one could check on the status their loved ones. Numerous charities are able to receive and disseminate funds
to those who need them. The media reported that more than a third
of the money received by the American Red Cross, or pledged to it
by donors, came over the Internet.
The Internet did what it was designed to do – facilitate
communication – and in so doing clearly demonstrated its
significance. In the
midst of the physical turmoil, the virtual world continued to
there may be a dark side.
Stories abound about al Qaeda’s use of the Internet – the full
extent of which is not yet known.
Reports claim their cyber tradecraft ranged from the highly
sophisticated, like steganography, to the comparatively innocuous,
like code words or phrases. An
email reminding someone to “walk the dog” could have been a
covert signal to proceed with an attack.
No amount of computing power or code breaking could have
tumbled that clue. We do know that in the past their techniques have involved a
combination of both high-tech and low-tech means of tradecraft and
Our policies in response to threats of any kind, moreover, must
not stifle the engines of innovation that drive our economy and
enhance our lives. Unfortunately, we have been trying to prosecute
21st century crimes armed only with 19th
century laws. This must change and I applaud Congress efforts to
empower our federal agencies with the needed statutory
Now more than ever, we cannot afford to overreact or put up too
many virtual or physical walls or the bad guys win by default
because we have lost our way of life.
The cure must never be worse than the disease –
undoubtedly the benefits outweigh the risks.
In particular, some seem to think that privacy, security and
electronic commerce are mutually exclusive. This is just not so.
The “game” is not zero-sum:
we can – and should – ensure privacy, security and
e-commerce. Indeed, it would be fair to state that you cannot have
privacy without security, and without security, e-commerce will
At the end of the day, it all comes down to leadership –not only
in government, but in the private sector and on the part of
individuals, too. President
Bush, and his team, deserves much credit for piloting the ship of
state through these roiling waters.
America rests easier knowing that he is at the helm and is
charting our course. And
we are grateful to the other world leaders who stand with us.
But make no mistake, we are in the eye of the storm.
Fighting terrorism will take not only new strategies and
new tools, but also the old grit and determination that have been
America’s historical reactions to unjust aggression and war.
In political terms, some of the difficult battles are still to
terrorism – in all its forms – requires a sustained campaign.
This campaign will continue to demand united support for
years. While I hope
that the intense focus of the spotlight shifts away from the issue
soon, I urge Congress to continue its unified efforts on this
That said, while the president and Congress have already
demonstrated political will on this matter – and I say this will
all sincerity – that alone will not be enough. We all share
responsibility for this issue and we must all muster the will, and
be prepared to contribute the resources, to deal with it. Plainly,
the challenges that we face are great. But we, as a nation, are up
to the task.