Expert calls for better security

A leading expert who helped develop the federal cybersecurity strategy during the Clinton administration said the plan is not working and needs to be overhauled.

"We are grossly unprepared to address the issue of cyberterrorism," said Jeffrey Hunker, a professor of technology policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Hunker, who spoke today at a Washington, D.C., homeland security conference sponsored by McGraw-Hill Companies, said people need to better understand the threats, build national structures for network security, understand the interdependencies with critical infrastructure, build incentives for educational awareness and recognize new technologies and standards. He listed six suggestions to improve cybersecurity:

Invest more in collecting statistics related to cybercrime

Keep what works, such as federal research, developing funding, private and public partnerships and a federal program that provides scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students studying computer security.

Develop national standards that have teeth, meaning officials would enforce them.

Expand and clearly define organizational and personal liability.

Have the Securities and Exchange Commission require companies to disclose cybersecurity investments to their investors.

Adjust federal research and development practices that also focus on developing management programs

Hunker, a former senior director of critical infrastructure with the National Security Council, said the United States has also failed to take leadership to shape global policy, leaving that to the European Union, United Nations and others.

The United States, he added, hasn't seen anything that can even be characterized as a cyberterrorism. Most events should be described as either cybercrime or vandalism. "These are...inconvenient but don't rise to the level of national security," he said.

However, he said there have been cyber skirmishes between countries such as China and Taiwan and between Israelis and Palestinians. He said after the Chinese embassy was bombed in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1999 by NATO forces, Chinese hackers launched a number of attacks against U.S. federal institutions.

However, Hunker, who is writing a book about the subject due out soon, said he expects to see some type of cyberterrorist attack in the next five years.

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