White House officials in the US are considering a series of recommendations to guard against computer terrorists, following the delivery of a top-level report warning that the nation is highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
The Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection last week published the findings of a 15-month inquiry into the threat from cyber-terrorists to the national economy. The report warns: "National defence is not just about government any more, and economic security is not just about business.
Today, the right command sent over the Internet to a power-generating station's control computer could be just as effective as a backpack full of explosives and the perpetrator would be harder to identify and apprehend."
The Commission urges President Clinton immediately to double the $250 million spent on research aimed at countering threats of computer attacks, and to increase this by $100 million each year. It recommends that by 2004, the budget assigned to the task should be $1 billion.
The report also calls for the President to instigate a national education programme while ordering a revision of existing laws to ensure protection against electronic attacks through the Internet. Specifically, it wants to see revisions to legislation enabling private companies to conduct criminal, personal and psychological background checks when hiring computer experts for sensitive positions.
The Commission also wants to set up an Information Analysis and Warning Centre, which could collate incidents of computer security breaches and send out solutions for countering them to industry and government agencies.
Commission chairman Robert Marsh commented: "While a catastrophic cyber-attack has not occurred, we have enough isolated incidents to know that the potential for disaster is real and the time to act is now."
A Home Office spokesman said the UK government is not planning any specific action on cyber-terrorism as current anti-terrorist legislation is adequate to deal with the threat. "The security services can take whatever action is necessary, and they are looking at this area along with all the others," he said.
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