Cybersecurity seriousness escalates

PDD-63 White Paper

A Senate hearing originally scheduled to examine the security of the critical cyber infrastructure took on extra meaning as Congress and the nation attempted to respond to Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

"It is important that the Senate continue with America's business, particularly as it affects America's security," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

The hearing was set up to allow the committee to hear the challenges that remain in government's efforts to secure the critical information infrastructure, which includes telecommunications and transportation, under Presidential Decision Directive 63. President Clinton signed the directive in May 1998 to require agencies to protect both the cyber and physical infrastructure, and much of the attention has been on the protection of information systems.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City and on the Pentagon, Congress is working to issue a joint resolution about the "war against international terrorism," Lieberman said, adding that the work on the cybersecurity elements of PDD-63 are relevant in that environment.

"If we're serious about commencing a war against terrorism...we have to understand it's going to be a different kind of war," he said.

Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), ranking member on the committee, called for agencies to use the attacks to put increased attention and resources into increasing their capabilities under PDD-63.

"We have to change our way of looking at things, we have to become more serious about the threat to our country," he said.

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) pointed out that many experts predict that a cyberattack on the nation's infrastructure would hit systems owned by the private sector, not the government. According to Bennett, the attack on the World Trade Center was not an attack on the U.S. military, but it managed to do much more damage to the nation than the attack on the Pentagon because it shut down air travel and U.S. financial markets.

The Bush administration is nearly finished with a review of the coordination across government on critical infrastructure protection efforts, said Richard Clarke, national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counterterrorism at the National Security Council, speaking Sept. 11 at a Washington, D.C., conference on information assurance. The attacks on the World Trade Center occurred during his speech.

The White House soon will issue an executive order outlining the Bush administration's strategy, he said.

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