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Senator Christopher Dodd
Vice-Chairman
Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem
Opening Statement at the Joint Economic Committee
February 23, 2000


We've all come through the Y2K experience a bit wiser on the role of technology in our economy-the fact that it is pervasive and that it makes us all more connected and more inter-dependent. One of the most important lessons we learned from Y2K was that by working together, government and industry, nations and global enterprises, we can solve the kinds of technology problems that we will likely face in this new century.

Today's hearing is focused on the threat to the US economy posed by insecure computer networks. Before we get to that, I'd like to speak to the awesome potential of the Internet to make our lives better. While we are speaking about the cybernetic or "cyber" threat, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that during the last eight years, we have experienced an incredible sustained growth in the economy, principally due to the rapidly expanding role of technology in commerce.

We now have medical procedures being performed over the Internet, bringing the expertise of doctors at major research hospitals to the surgery rooms across the country and the globe. On the Internet, people can buy and sell items in online auctions-a "virtual" version of the county auction. We have online banking, shopping, online music, online pharmacies, global discussion groups, and online trading of stocks. We've had political campaigns on the local, national, and global scale use the Internet to gather support and funding and to discuss important issues. Even if you don't personally participate on the Internet, it is remaking the global economy in ways that we are only beginning to understand.

As we build this new economy, which Allen Greenspan (Chairman of the Federal Reserve) has said defies current economic models, we should pause along the way to ensure that it is a safe and secure environment, and that it fits with what we want our society to be about. Recently, I introduced legislation to protect peoples' financial, medical, and genetic privacy. Among other things, the legislation makes it illegal to fire people for what is in their genes, whether that is a predisposition for cancer or the possibility of heart-failure. President Clinton has endorsed this legislation, and I am hopeful that we will get it before the Congress this year.

Today, we pause to listen to the experts-those who have helped build the Internet, those that are involved in securing the Internet from all threats, and those who are interested in making sure that we take prudent and careful steps to protect the new economy. I am anxious to hear their assessment of the looming cyber threat.

In addition, the CIA was asked to provide a statement for the record today, which contains an assessment of the risk posed by this new threat to our economic and national security. Trillions of dollars in financial transactions and commerce move over the internet, which has ill-defined and sporadic law enforcement; billions of dollars worth of intellectual property are on networked systems; and there is the potential to disrupt military effectiveness and public safety via the internet while maintaining the elements of surprise and anonymity. In short, a new global village without a police force. However, we have a dilemma: we must make Internet use secure, while recognizing that the chief strength of the Internet continues to be its openness. This means that we should craft our policies for a collaborative, Internet community-based solution.

One point that we expect to hear is that we need more research and development in security technology and collaborative security arrangements. While that occurs, we need to move forward on a variety of public policy fronts, we need to address the shortcomings in the protection of privacy, the ability to secure critical infrastructure, and the creation of strong public-private partnerships. This is the way forward, for all of us, in the new Internet economy.

 

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