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Cyber-Security Changes? Maybe Next Year

Wednesday, December 8, 2004; 10:31 AM

Some of the nation's top technology industry executives warned yesterday that the Bush administration has failed to follow through on its two-year-old strategy to protect the nation's information networks from online attackers.

The administration should raise the profile of its cyber-security chief in the Department of Homeland Security, heads of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance said at a Washington news conference yesterday. They say the move would create stronger leadership for the division, whose director currently reports to an assistant secretary responsible for both cyber and physical security threats.

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"We really have an opportunity here to address cyber-security in a more aggressive fashion," said Amit Yoran, the former director of the department's National Cyber Security Division, washingtonpost.com reported. Yoran, the third high-level cyber-security official to leave the department in 18 months, has said in the past that the division needed a leader who answers directly to the secretary of homeland security.

Yoran, of course, is known throughout the security industry as the man who quit his post in part because of his frustrations in trying to get the administration to pay more attention to information security. He was replaced on an acting basis by his deputy, Andy Purdy.

The industry alliance's recommendations are similar to others released earlier this week by the House Homeland Security cyber-security subcommittee. Both sets of recommendations come during the same week that two former CIA directors warned about the possible effects of online attacks on the national infrastructure. At an anti-terrorism conference on Saturday, former CIA director Robert Gates said a cyber attack could cripple the U.S. economy because many businesses that rely on information networks remain unprepared for such attacks. In a speech at a homeland security conference in Washington last Wednesday, another former CIA chief, George Tenet, called for tough new cyber-security protections, pointing to a rapid increase in the number of foreign intelligence services and military organizations conducting research on information attacks.

Fomenting Fermentation at the Highest Levels

It might be nearly time to let that Kabinett out of the cabinet. The Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments in a case that could determine whether wine merchants can ship their products to states that presently ban alcohol imports. Michigan and New York are two of the states that require out-of-state wineries to use state-licensed wholesalers to get their products on display shelves, but a group of wine lovers and a Virgina wine owner say the state laws violate a federal commerce statute. The states say the 21st Amendment gives them this right.

Many supporters of the states say shipments should be banned anyway because there are plenty of children out there who can otherwise use the Internet to get hold of liquor without having to flash an ID at their local store. But supporters of allowing shipments say that the real issue is that entrenched distributors don't want to let the Internet spring a leak in their tightly controlled arrangements with the states. The whole situation's enough to drive you to drink.

Robert MacMillan, washingtonpost.com Tech Policy Editor

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