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Timeline: The U.S. Government and Cybersecurity

May 1990: The GAO says the Computer Security Act of 1987 is failing to protect government data. Agency heads say budget problems contribute to the failure.

February 1991: Data theft "is a serious strategic threat to national security," says Michelle Van Cleave, the White House Assistant Director for National Security Affairs.

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July 1996: Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of a House Government Reform subcommittee, publishes his first quarterly "Year 2000 readiness report card" for federal agencies and offices. Many of them receive failing grades.

July 1996: President Clinton establishes the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, charged with coordinating and protecting vital infrastructure systems (gas, oil, telecom, water, transportation, etc.) against physical and electronic attack.

February 1998: President Clinton appoints former Deputy Budget Director John Koskinen to chair his Year 2000 Conversion Council. The council centralizes executive branch efforts to prepare government agencies for the date rollover. The council also becomes a template for later executive branch efforts to centralize oversight of cybersecurity threats.

April 1998: Realizing that Y2K problems could affect sectors under the jurisdiction of several congressional committees, U.S. Senate leaders appoint Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) to chair a panel on Y2K readiness. The committee keeps close tabs on businesses and government efforts to ready their systems for the date rollover.

May 1998: President Clinton orders the government to work with businesses to secure the nation's vital information networks, nearly 90 percent of which are privately owned and operated. Clinton appoints Richard Clarke as National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism. He also calls for a national cyberspace protection plan, scheduled for release in 2000.

1998-1999: The U.S. government and the private sector spend significant sums (estimates range from millions to tens of billions of dollars collectively) fixing key computer and communications systems in preparation for the Y2K changeover. The government establishes a $50 million domestic and international Y2K coordination center with many of the nation's largest IT compani es contributing cash and staff.

July 1999: President Clinton signs the Year 2000 Readiness and Responsibility Act, which limits the legal liability of companies that suffer problems, despite making good-faith efforts to fix their systems in advance of the date rollover. The law says companies being sued for technological failures can raise a Y2K defense if they can prove they took adequate steps to prepare their systems for the switch.

Jan. 2000: The media and the public watch as the world transitions through Y2K with no major disasters. Many people question whether the problem was over-hyped. Critics point to many countries that s pent a fraction of the amount the United States invested but had few -- if any -- Y2K-related problems.

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