Warning center for cyber attacks is online, official says

A national early-warning network and analysis center for cyber attacks is operating in 30 locations, a senior White House official said on Wednesday.

Paul Kurtz, a special assistant to President Bush and senior director for critical infrastructure protection in the Homeland Security Council, said the Cyber Warning and Information Network (CWIN) has begun operating, and administration officials are working to add state and local officials to the network.

"It's not a first-responders network," Kurtz said at a cybersecurity conference organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Information Technology Industry Council. "But we've been hearing a lot of questions about how we'll share information ... and CWIN is just the beginning" of that information-sharing effort.

CWIN was an idea of former White House cybersecurity adviser Richard Clarke, who in October 2001 said creating such an early-warning system would be a top priority as part of the government's efforts for bolstering network security. Two information-sharing and analysis centers for various sectors of the economy already have joined the network, with more expected to join by year's end.

CWIN was to be modeled after the existing National Operations and Intelligence Watch Offices Network, which connects senior officials at the Pentagon, National Security Agency, White House, State Department and CIA by phone within 15 seconds, Clarke said in 2001.

CWIN "is being used just a little bit ... and we will need greater assistance" from the private sector, Kurtz said. "But there is movement on the ground."

Kurtz also outlined the role of the White House Homeland Security Council, which is modeled after the National Security Council. He said the Homeland Security Council's main goal is to make sure the Homeland Security Department is successful, as well as to work with all federal agencies to coordinate homeland security efforts.

He emphasized the importance of the private sector continuing to work with the government to answer ongoing questions, such as "what is the cyber infrastructure, what is the role of the federal government and what is the proper role of state and local officials in protecting computer networks?" He also said the Bush administration philosophy is to let the private sector find market-based solutions to security before seeking "government remedies."

Other panelists at the event spoke about their companies' efforts to play a role in homeland security. For example, Frank Koester, vice president of technical operations at Eastman Kodak, highlighted a technology standard called JPEG 2000 that enables the sharing of digital imaging to help emergency workers do their jobs.

Tom Richey, director of homeland security at Microsoft, noted that his company's software has met national security standards for intelligence sharing and that his firm is bolstering the security of its current systems and products. And Bill Boni, chief information security officer at Motorola, outlined his firm's efforts to make wireless systems more secure.