CEO pushes stimulus, security

Symantec Corp. chief John Thompson met Dec. 6 with Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), one stop in a weeklong campaign to promote the economic stimulus package and cybersecurity.

Thompson is taking advantage of this week's Business Software Alliance conference in Washington, D.C., to voice his support for legislation designed to jump-start the economy. Democrats and Republicans have been wrangling over the $30 billion package for weeks.

"I just want to see something passed," said the Symantec president and chief executive officer, noting that the inclusion of accelerated software depreciation in the bill would be particularly beneficial to the information technology industry.

In addition to meeting with Bennett, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Thompson and other tech executives attending the Business Software Alliance event met with administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.

Security also is a key topic of the week's discussions, said Thompson, whose company markets the Norton brand of computer security products. He is calling for a cybersecurity awareness campaign, adding that small and medium-size businesses are a particularly vulnerable portion of the nation's economic backbone.

He said corporations housing "a large array of digital assets" — such as financial services companies — have had the greatest focus on security. Smaller companies, in contrast, have less discretionary capital to invest in security and are, therefore, at greater risk.

As for the government's security efforts, Thompson said GovNet, the proposed secure government intranet, faces more daunting cultural issues than technical hurdles. "The technology is fairly simple to put in," he said, adding that the hard part is "the cultural change that will have to come about in government — information-sharing across agencies."

Thompson says that multi-agency security initiatives are difficult to implement. One such example is the Federal Intrusion Detection Network, which has yet to get off the ground.

Thompson said he would prefer an "agency by agency" approach to intrusion detection and security monitoring in which agencies would purchase services from an approved list of vendors. He added that such a vehicle would have to be carefully managed to ensure that providers had the financial wherewithal and staff resources to deliver on projects.

Moore is a freelance writer based in Chantilly, Va.

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