Clinton tells agencies to protect Internet sites

As President Clinton on Friday outlined his agenda for maintaining the United States' leadership in the new technology-based economy, he ordered federal agencies to set an example for the private sector by taking new steps to guard U.S. government systems against cyberattacks.

Clinton issued a memorandum calling on agency heads to renew efforts to guard federal computer systems against "denial-of-service" attacks. Within the last month, several popular commercial Web sites were sidelined for several hours by such attacks, which flood a site with requests for information.

"These Internet disruptions highlight how important computer networks have become to our daily lives and how vulnerabilities can create risks for all, including the federal government," Clinton said in a statement.

Among the steps the president ordered agencies to take include calling for closer scrutiny of contractors that provide Internet services to the federal government. White House Chief of Staff John Podesta also has been tapped to coordinate a review of the vulnerabilities federal government computer systems face and report back to Clinton with the results by April 1.

In the wake of the denial-of-service attacks, Clinton held a meeting with high-tech industry representatives and others on how to improve Internet security. Industry representatives and others have criticized the federal government for not providing a strong enough example of the importance of Internet security, noting the ease at which hackers have infiltrated government Web sites.

Information Technology Association of America President Harris Miller, who participated in the White House meeting on cyber security, praised the president for being willing to "go beyond talking the talk on this critical issue."

Clinton focused on Internet security Friday afternoon along with his other goals for maintaining the United States' edge in information technology during a speech at the Aspen Institute's annual meeting in San Jose. Those goals include protecting users' privacy on the Internet, investing in long-term science and technology research and development, and closing the digital divide, the gap between those with access to technology and those without it.

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