Shortchanging security is risky

But the ease with which the Air Force jammed the signals— a 5-watt transmitter interfered with signals as far out as 186 miles— only points out the system's vulnerability. ~Add to that incident the news that a Russian manufacturer has sold to other countries a 4-watt jamming device that can knock out GPS signals within a 50-mile radius, and you have the making of a real disaster. ~The mistake here is to heed the naysayers who call for less dependence on GPS as a technology for aircraft navigation, a technology the Federal Aviation Administration is developing. ~What is needed is more— more testing, more redundant systems and more security that is as foolproof as possible. ~We are well aware that security budgets are one of the first line-items that agencies cut when looking for funds. ~And with the Year 2000 problem sopping up any excess information technology funds, security is certain to be trimmed. ~What is needed is more attention to IT security, and that means money and top management attention.When the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection first met in late 1996 to figure out how to protect from terrorists the computers that operate the nation's electrical, transportation, financial and telecommunications systems, the idea of such a cyberattack seemed remote.

No longer.

In an incident that should serve as a wake-up call for the federal government, the Air Force from Dec. 30 to Jan. 12 inadvertently knocked out the Global Positioning System satellite signals that trans-Atlantic commercial flights use to make their final approaches into busy airports in the Northeast.

Granted, no one was injured, none of the airlines were at any time in grave danger, and the source of the GPS jamming was our own military— something akin to "friendly fire."

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