Clinton draws line on security

The Clinton administration has said enough is enough. Last week, in memos

issued by President Clinton and the Office of Management and Budget, the

administration indicated that it plans to get tough with federal agencies

that do not make information systems security a top priority.

Starting with the fiscal 2002 budget, agencies that have not adequately

incorporated security measures into new or existing information systems

will not receive funding for those systems. In addition, starting in fiscal

2002, agencies will be allowed to purchase only commercial information security

products that have been evaluated by accredited national laboratories and

that meet international assurance standards.

OMB Director Jacob Lew last week released a memo detailing the information

security measures agencies must put in place if those systems are to be

considered for funding. Agencies, which have just begun to formulate fiscal

2002 budgets, must report in their fiscal 2002 budget requests how they

are complying with the guidance.

The memo specifically directs agencies to ensure that security and privacy

protections are an essential element of all new and existing information

systems. It also directs system managers to make sure the protections are

commensurate with the threat, do not impede an agency's ability to carry

out its mission, work in conjunction with a defined agency security strategy

and support existing agency information architectures.

"In general, OMB will consider new or continued funding only for those

system investments that satisfy these criteria and will consider funding

information technology investments only upon demonstration that existing

agency systems meet these criteria," the memo states.

The five "suggestions" provide much more specific guidelines than what

agencies worked from in the past. For years, agencies, using the Computer

Security Act and OMB Circular A-130, have decided on the security measures

for their systems.

That approach is not working, said Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), chairman

of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, at a hearing last week. The

General Accounting Office has performed many agency security audits during

the past three years and consistently found the same weaknesses. But agencies

have done little to tighten information security beyond the specific problems

detailed in the reports, Thompson said.

"It's really outrageous that the federal government, in an area of this

sensitivity, cannot do more, faster," he said.

President Clinton last week issued a memo directing White House chief

of staff John Podesta to coordinate a governmentwide review of computer

system and network vulnerabilities and deliver a report on the review's

findings by April 1.

The fact that Podesta has been put in charge of the review and that

he will report the results directly to the president indicates how information

security has risen to the top of Clinton's agenda, a White House official


The memo also directs agency heads to work more closely with the Federal

Computer Incident Response Capability and the National Infrastructure Protection

Center to protect their computer systems against cyberthreats such as the

denial-of-service attacks that shut down Yahoo, eBay and other Internet

commerce sites last month.

"Remember that as you build your security budgets, your information

security budget is a key part of that," the White House official said.

"Clearly, the president's memo [and] the OMB memo refer to the fact

that people in government are getting more serious [about security]," said

Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America.


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