A presidential commission has urged that preparations be made to defend the US? essential services from the threat of ?cyberattacks? from hostile forces.
The President?s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection was set by President Clinton last year to assess the risks posed by new technology to vital services, such as gas and electricity networks, telephone lines and banking.
The 20-strong commission - made up of representatives from groups such as the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency - has until July to produce a contingency plan for the President outlining how these services can be protected.
While the commission is supposed to evaluate conventional physical threats, it has so far displayed a greater interest in the supposed cyberthreat posed by the Internet. At a briefing in Washington last week, commission chairman Robert Marsh, a 72-year old retired US Air Force general, warned: "The information age makes it possible for individuals armed only with computers to gain access to our borders."
Recent successful hacking attacks on CIA and Air Force computer systems have caused alarm in Washington and are likely to ensure that the commission?s recommendations are taken on board. "The weight of anecdotal evidence is sufficiently persuasive to warrant a serious collaborative effort to address this problem," said Marsh.
Before its report is completed the commission plans to hold five public meetings in US cities around the country to meet with figures from industry. It is calling for a partnership between government and industry to produce defences to potential attacks, "before a crisis occurs", as Marsh put it.
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