Avoiding 'digital Exxon Valdez'

The National Plan for Critical Infrastructure Protection

A presidential advisory committee has established a task force to facilitate

the sharing of information between the private sector and the government

about critical infrastructure protection.

Officials have identified information sharing between industry and government

as one of the most pressing security challenges. The private sector owns

the vast majority of the nation's critical infrastructure.

The National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee — a presidential

advisory committee made up of 30 corporate leaders representing major sectors

of the telecommunications industry — issued a report in May concluding that

there are three main barriers to information sharing and critical infrastructure

protection:

* Lack of a clear and present danger to spur immediate action.

* Operational impediments resulting from the lack of a single coordinating

body for information sharing.

* Legal impediments, primarily from the debate over exemptions from the

Freedom of Information Act.

"There is a big question about whether industry will take the lead" in security,

said John Tritak, director of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office,

during a recent cybersecurity summit at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

"Version 2 of the National Plan [for Information Systems Protection] will

be written by industry," Tritak said.

However, if the private sector doesn't come to the table, they run the risk

of allowing a "digital Exxon Valdez" disaster to occur, he said. "There

are many people on the Hill who are rightly concerned about whether national

security can be handled by economic, market-driven needs."

Jeffrey Hunker, senior director for critical infrastructure at the National

Security Council, said by not taking the lead, industry runs the risk of

allowing Congress to act inappropriately. "This is not an academic subject.

Bad law or bad regulation will fill the gap," he said.

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