After Y2K, hacking will be next big issue

After Y2K, hacking will be next big issue

Federal officials said Wednesday that computer security will be the next big challenge facing the federal government after it gets past the Y2K problem.

"It's very clear that computer security will be fast on the heels once we get past the millennium," said Comptroller General of the United States David Walker, who heads the General Accounting Office.

Walker made the comments during a hearing before the House Government Reform Committee's Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee on the federal government's fiscal 1998 financial audit.

He and others said weaknesses with federal government computer systems put significant amounts of federal assets at risk to fraud or misuse. It also places federal information at risk to illegal modification or destruction, and sensitive data at risk to unauthorized disclosure. One of the most serious problems reported by federal agencies is not having adequate restrictions on access to sensitive data.

While federal officials are still determining the extent of the problem, Walker cited several examples in his written testimony. For example, he said as part of computer security reviews, GAO officials have gained unauthorized access to systems that would allow intruders to "read, modify or delete data."

OMB Deputy Director for Management G. Edward DeSeve said defense and intelligence officials are conducting a "major review" of the threat posed by cyberterrorists. It involves scanning systems to examine the potential for hackers to break in and the ability of government employees to gain unauthorized access to data, he said.

DeSeve said government officials are using many of the techniques they have learned from addressing the Y2K computer problem in their efforts to enhance computer security.

As the subcommittee's work on the Y2K problem winds down, the panel will shift its focus to government computer security, an aide said.

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