Mission impossible

The news that government computer systems are vulnerable to hacker attacks is hardly news: More than two years ago, FCW reported on a series of break-ins to DOD systems. However, in the intervening years there has been a growing awareness of how serious the problem could become. Now a Hill subcommittee has proposed a national SWAT center to perform this mission impossible.

The idea is not bad, but many longtime government watchers wonder if, given the current culture, the idea has much chance of success.

One key to addressing the issue is getting an accurate idea of the size of the problem, so an important part of what the center is supposed to do is to gather incident data - no small feat because many agencies refuse to disclose any information. As one observer pointed out, the intelligence agencies won't share information - even with each other - and they certainly don't trust folks in the uncloaked agencies.

But unless there is a dramatic change in law or attitude, the center will be nothing more than window dressing. It will count incidents when they make the papers or when a civilian bureaucrat gets around to the paperwork. The real interdiction of hackers will not be possible unless the center has some muscle behind it. A law helps, but high-level political backing is essential.

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