Cybersecurity R&D 'inadequate'

Congressman says computer security not being properly addressed in wake of Sept. 11 attacks

House Science Committee

The federal government needs to dedicate more of its research and development resources to address problems such as cybersecurity, where research has been "inadequate," said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chairman of the House Science Committee.

Speaking Oct. 1 to a group of college presidents from the State University of New York, Boehlert said that computer security is the most important R&D area pertaining to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that the government does not appear to be addressing.

This does not mean working only to combat cyber-based terrorist attacks designed to shut down systems or the Internet, Boehlert said. The government also must increase the level of security on all computer systems through increased funding to federal, academic and industry research, he said.

"While the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 events did not engage in cyberattacks—indeed they made full use of the intact Internet in carrying out the everyday activities, like airline ticket purchases, on which their plot depended—our general vulnerability to terrorism should make us look again at our ability to protect the computer systems on which we all increasingly rely," Boehlert said.

Research already under way on identification techniques, especially biometrics, must also get higher priority in the president's budget, he said.

White House and congressional leaders tentatively have agreed to increase the fiscal 2002 budget, and according to Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell Daniels Jr., resources will be devoted to R&D, Boehlert said.

President Bush has named a new science adviser, John Marburger, who will head the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which oversees much of the federal R&D budget.

That position has been vacant since January, and while Marburger awaits confirmation in the Senate, the division directors and other staff members also are in limbo, Paul Domich, a member of OSTP, told the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee last week.

The Science Committee has tentatively scheduled a hearing for Oct. 10 to look at the issue of cybersecurity R&D and plans to hold another hearing later in the month to examine research needs to protect physical infrastructure, Boehlert said. The committee is already working with the new Office of Homeland Security in this area, he said.

NEXT STORY: Facing the need for biometrics

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