President Clinton proposed Friday that the United States form a "Cyber Corps" of computer experts to defend against threats to the nation's critical information systems.
The Cyber Corps program would help fortify the ranks of federal government computer experts, Clinton said, and would encourage federal agencies to recruit computer-savvy college grads. In addition, the program would set aside funding for training and retraining of federal computer technology experts.
The suggestion was made in a speech at the National Academy of Sciences, where Clinton outlined three additional initiatives to combat cyber-terrorism.
Clinton recommended stepping up research efforts to detect hackers trying to break into computer systems, building intruder detection networks that would alert key agencies when a critical computer system had been hacked, and proposed the creation of information centers that would promote private-sector cooperation in addressing cyber-threats.
The President said he would include $1.46 billion in his budget proposal to Congress to fund these initiatives, a 40 percent increase from what the government spent on cyber-defense two years ago.
The Pentagon received a wake-up call last year when certain unclassified Department of Defense computer systems were hacked. It took several days for the Pentagon to determine that the attacks were acts of vandalism and not foreign threats.
Clinton illustrated the world's dependence on critical information systems by referring to last spring's satellite failure in which ATMs, pagers, television and credit card systems worldwide were temporarily disabled.
"We must be ready-ready if our adversaries try to use computers to disable power grids, banking, communications and transportation networks, police, fire and health services-or military assets," he said.