Cyberterror test checks connections

For the first time ever, federal, state and local government officials are partnering with representatives from the private sector and the utilities community in a exercise designed to identify the links between them in responding to and defending against cyberterror.

Operation Dark Screen, the brainchild of Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas), is a three-phase exercise that will help all the players involved better understand their roles in preparing for, recovering from, and protecting the nation's critical infrastructure in case of a cyberattack.

"A lot of people think about chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, but very few people think about the cyber," Rodriguez said. "Anyone that is going to hit us, it's going to be a combination of those."

The program's first phase will be a tabletop exercise in September, where a yet-to-be-determined cyberattack will be played out and all participants will respond, said Gregory White, technical director for the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS) at the University of Texas at San Antonio, which is leading the planning and execution of Operation Dark Screen.

The Air Force Air Intelligence Agency, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, has assumed a leadership role in bringing together the various stakeholders, which include representatives from San Antonio, Bexar County, the Army, the Air Force, the state attorney general's office, the FBI, the private sector and many others, Rodriguez said.

The second phase of Dark Screen will focus on implementing the "lessons learned" from the tabletop exercise, and the third phase, which will take place in May 2003, will be a live exercise and include actual attempts to penetrate networks, White said.

"We can do it on paper, but by bringing everybody together at one time, we can see who is prepared to do that," White said, adding that so far participants have paid their own way through the planning stages, but attempts to secure federal and private funding are ongoing.

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