Shoring Up Security against Cyberterrorists 'Halting Hackers' Presidential Panel Unveils Plan Monday to Protect US, Business Computer Systems

Article excerpt

He didn't fit the terrorist profile: A teenager in Sweden with a modem and a lot of time on his hands.

But just this spring the computer hacker was convicted of a misdemeanor for penetrating the 911 phone systems in 11 Florida counties and harassing operators.

The incident could have been much worse. But it points to a serious security lapse that affects not only Florida's 911 service, but also computer systems from the Pentagon to the neighborhood bank. To address this problem, a presidential commission has been studying America's vulnerability to terrorist attack for the past 15 months. It will deliver its final report to President Clinton Monday, suggesting how best to protect US computer systems and increase security on the networks that connect them. "We are in a new age with new threats, and we have to develop new ways to look at them," says Carla Sims, a member of the panel. "Waiting for a disaster is a dangerous strategy. We haven't had a mass attack, but the potential is real." The commission's recommendations are expected to include: * Information sharing within the private sector and the government regarding protective measures against increasingly sophisticated attacks. * Creation of a more secure, so-called "Next Generation Internet" for government use. * The investment of more private-sector money in research and development of network security. The commission is expected to recommend that private businesses spend as much as $1.5 billion a year in R&D between now and 2004. The commission's recommendations are founded on a basic idea: Technology connects almost every sector of the US economy. …