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Time to enlist a 'national guard' for IT?

By , Network World
March 29, 2004 12:09 AM ET

Network World - NORTHFIELD, VT. - The U.S. is unprepared to recover quickly from a major cyberterrorism attack and might require government intervention to organize IT professionals, according to military emergency management officials at a security conference.

Authority from the president and Congress should be conferred on a single person to cull government resources to respond to such attacks, but that will not be enough, according to retired Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Jack D'Araujo, a former assistant director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who spoke last week at the e-ProtectIT conference at Norwich University.

D'Araujo said that in cyberwar games last fall called Livewire, participating businesses seemed reluctant to give up information to federal officials about their networks and what data travels on them. In an actual cyberattack, there is no set official chain of command for dealing with recovering from the attack, he said.

A cyber national guard might be needed, he said, to react as the military National Guard reacts to natural disasters. The need is urgent because the extent and target of possible attacks cannot be known. "We're really plowing some new ground," he said. "We flat-out aren't prepared to deal with it."

Ready to fight
An IT industry group called the National Early Warning Task Force recommends these steps in preparation to fight cyberterrorism:
Create an early-warning network — based on CERT — to detect attacks.
Broaden the sharing of information on attacks.
Draw in IT represent-atives from 14 critical areas identified by the Department of Homeland Security.
Set up a National Crisis Coordination Center to bridge barriers between groups.
Prepare, execute and evaluate plans for dealing with cyberattacks.
Identify and shore up vulnerabilities to national infrastructure.
Click to see:

The upside is that within the IT community people have knowledge about what do to in a cyberattack, said Patrick Gallagher, former director of the federal government's National Computer Security Center. "If we have problems today, we have network groups who can and do talk to each other and speak a similar language and have the same training," he said. "What we need is the leadership to pull that together."

Recovering quickly is important, but because there has never been a cyberdisaster, it's difficult to know what will be needed and how quickly damage can be repaired, said Pierce Reid, an Internet warfare specialist and vice president of marketing for VoIP vendor Qovia. "What will it take for a national reboot? A lot of these systems have never been taken offline," Reid said.

These comments came a week after the IT industry Cyber Security Early Warning Task Force issued a report calling for an early-warning network and a national crisis coordination center run by CERT (see Bradner column). The purpose would be to gather attack information and issue appropriate warnings to the right people. Representatives from BellSouth, Computer Associates, Intel, Internet Security Systems, Microsoft, SAIC, Symantec and other corporations participate in the task force. The group plans to issue a report on public responses to its proposals in June.

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