Law is only part of better computer security, Congress told

Federal agencies would benefit greatly from a proposed enhancement to a 12-year-old computer security law, but legislation alone cannot solve some underlying information security problems, federal and industry experts told Congress today.

The Computer Security Enhancement Act of 1999 would increase the role and resources of the National Institute of Standards and Technology by establishing security guidelines that federal agencies could follow.

The bill would beef up the Computer Security Act, which requires civilian agencies to protect computer systems. The Computer Security Enhancement Act passed the House last year but failed to move in the Senate.

The bill will not necessarily make federal computers safer, said Raymond Kammer, director of NIST. Agencies must understand that the responsibility for securing computers and transactions starts with agencies and that they must put in place steps to meet those demands, he said.

"Only they can decide how valuable the data is and then how to protect it," Kammer said. The act also would provide additional resources to NIST for funding security scholarships and internships for students, part of a solution to the growing shortage of security professionals within government and industry.

"You can't help [ease] this [IT worker shortage] by bringing in immigrants," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America. "You can't outsource this to another country. We need to have specialists in this country."

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