Senator calls for congressional oversight of federal antihacking plan

By Patrick Thibodeau, Computer World |  Government

WASHINGTON -- Pointing to the growing concern about a Big Brother federal role on cyberspace issues, U.S. Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) today said congressional oversight is needed for the federal plan to establish an intrusion detection system linking private companies and federal agencies.

Bennett, chairman of the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on the Year 2000 Problem, said at a hearing today that Congress has yet to receive the Federal Intrusion Detection Network (FIDNET) plan that was leaked to the press earlier this week. "I am confident . . . that a copy of the national plan will be forthcoming," he said.

The intent of FIDNET is to create a monitoring and intrusion detection system that would allow government and businesses that manage key parts of the economy -- transportation, telecommunications, energy and others -- to share information about attacks. But some civil liberties groups worry that the system would also enable the government to monitor activities of a broad swath of people who use the Internet.

Bennett said the ability of the government and the private sector to cooperate will be tested by the operation of the Information Coordination Center (ICC). The center was established by White House Y2K officials to gather information about year 2000 events in the public and private sector.

"The ICC is an opportunity to demonstrate how such information sharing between the public and private sectors may be effectively achieved," Bennett said. "But if the ICC is not effective, the administration will have failed to demonstrate to the private sector the value in sharing sensitive information with the federal government."

Bennett also said Y2K may make the U.S. vulnerable to cyberattacks. "We have already seen where our national security has been eroded by lax security at national labs," he said. "I do not say this to scare anyone, but I think we should be candid about what we might be facing."

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