Internet Security Threat Up, Panel Told

Article excerpt

Byline: Tim Lemke

The threat of a break in security increases as the Internet grows in size and scope, but efforts to improve the situation must be weighed carefully against privacy issues, Internet officials told a Senate panel yesterday.

"Security is failing us," Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, told the Senate's science, technology and space subcommittee. "Every year the problem gets worse and worse."

There was little disagreement among the panelists and the subcommittee chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, who said strict and specific legislation is needed to curb the number of security incidents such as "denial of access" attacks, viruses and thefts of credit cards and passwords.

The Computer Security Institute released a study earlier this year in which 85 percent of respondents said they experienced a computer breach, with 64 percent serious enough to cause financial losses.

"Hacking is no longer a joke, a mischievous prank that teen-agers pull for fun," Mr. Wyden said. "Where e-commerce is concerned, `sabotage' would be a better term."

But the challenge is creating laws that can be enforced easily and lead to prosecution without violating U.S. citizens' privacy.

"Congress has to look at this a different way," said Vinton Cerf, considered the "father" of the Internet and a senior vice president of WorldCom Inc. …