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Alert System Sought for Internet Attacks
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2001 04:55:06 -0500 (CDT)


By Ariana Eunjung Cha,
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2001; 7:31 AM

OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 23 News of cyberattacks, viruses and hoaxes
often spreads through the computer security world in the same
haphazard way as gossip. Jonathan Disher, who oversees the security
network for Internet Pictures Corp., for instance, gets his
information from several Web sites, two e-mail lists, pages and phone

So far, he said his informal system has worked okay. But since Sept.
11, Disher has been worried about how such a system would hold up
under aggressive, targeted strikes by terrorist groups.

"While we're not completely caught with our pants down, we're not as
prepared as we should be," he said.

Creating a "first alert" system for problems on the Internet has
become a priority in recent weeks as the government has warned of
possible attacks on the high-tech infrastructure. Richard A. Clarke,
the adviser for cyber-security in the newly created Office of Homeland
Security, has encouraged companies to create industry-specific
information dissemination centers.

Setting up such a system was the topic du jour in the hallways here at
a meeting of nearly 600 computer administrators and security managers
of some of the largest and most powerful high-tech companies in the
country, such as Cisco Systems, Yahoo, America Online and Microsoft.
Many like the idea of information centers, but say companies are
reluctant to share information with others because they don't want to
appear vulnerable or give information to competitors.

"The biggest problem . . . is people don't trust each other," said
Bill Yang, who works for a high-tech consultancy in Ohio.

A public-private group called Infragard aims to change that. Created
in January, it is coordinated by the FBI and its members include
representatives from companies that run the nation's water,
electricity, medical, communications and transportation systems. It
has set up an e-mail list that allows people to report potential
problems, even anonymously.

In the meantime, Clarke and others have begun discussing additional
ways to better prepare for a possible attack on computer systems. He
has called for the creation of a second, more stable Internet for the
government and he has proposed that emergency workers be given
priority access to wireless communications during crises.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), meanwhile, recently urged the government to
establish a national technology corps to help during crises. The
volunteers would stand ready with computer equipment, satellite
dishes, wireless communicators and other equipment to quickly
re-create and repair compromised communications and technology
infrastructures. "What we're talking about is having the brains and
trucks and routers in place just in case," Wyden said.

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