A balanced electronic civil defense

If we believe the scenario painted by the Defense Science Board in its recently completed report on the effects of information warfare on this country's infrastructure of power financial and transportation systems we are all in a precarious position.

The downside of the much-ballyhooed move to automated systems is that those systems are very susceptible to attack - by both conventional and electronic means.

Planning a reasonable and affordable defense to such attacks is clearly on the top of the agenda for Defense Department planners but some of the solutions put forward in the report conjure up some alarming scenarios. If DOD must - as it asserts - monitor and protect civilian systems the possibility exists for the creation of a "big-brother-is-watching" mentality.

The private sector has been reluctant to share much information about past break-ins for fear that data would serve as a blueprint for future hackers. There is little or no enthusiasm for having DOD "take care" of private-sector networks.

DOD in turn says it cannot have an unprotected Achilles' heel.

Developing a better way of sharing information about attacks and attempted break-ins certainly is a good first step.

As a follow-up DOD and industry should look into the development of a mutual cooperation system that would permit the private sector to maintain control of its own security until a foreign attack clearly is under way - at which time DOD should exercise special powers and responsibilities to defend not only its own systems but also the country's infrastructure.

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