Commerce unveils computer security partnership plan

As the Clinton administration continues to work on a national plan for protecting the nation's critical infrastructure computer systems from cyberterrorism, Commerce Secretary William Daley unveiled a "Partnership for Critical Infrastructure" between the department and 80 companies to work on resolving private sector vulnerabilities in computing security.

Daley met with company heads to discuss how the private sector can organize to facilitate a dialogue on different industry's efforts to protect their computer systems.

"The growing dependency of our critical infrastructures on computer systems presents new challenges and potential risks. These must be addressed and managed, since disruptions to these infrastructures increasingly may affect our nation's security, economic competitiveness, and public welfare," Daley said in a speech in New York on his meeting with private sector companies.

Daley said the group decided to meet again early next year to identify and address security issues where there is a consensus.

The partnership is just a piece of the different efforts the administration has made since a May 1998 presidential directive for the federal government to develop a plan for protecting computers systems in the telecommunications, transportation, energy, banking and financial services, public health and water supply industries, all considered critical to society.

The administration is close to completing its initial work on a plan for protecting the federal government's computer networks and is planning to introduce it within the next few weeks or early next year, depending upon President Clinton's schedule, according to a source close to the plan. The plan has been delayed numerous times over some controversial measures in the draft of the plan which included FIDNet, which would enable the government to monitor its own computer networks.

Because the federal government cannot mandate to the private sector on how it should protect its systems, Daley's efforts are meant to help the private sector come up with its own cyberterrorism protection plan, according to Douglas Sabo, director of the information security program at the Information Technology Association of America.

"This new effort is meant to bridge the gap among the private sector industries," Sabo said. ITAA is working with the U.S. Telephone Association and the Telecommunications Industry Association to come up with a plan for protecting the telecom industry.

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