Cyberattack report: Some progress made

By Matt Hamblen, Computer World |  Business

Representatives from more than a dozen critical infrastructure sectors of the economy, including telecommunications, transportation and electric power, this week plan to deliver to the White House a status report on the private sector's progress in beefing up cybersecurity.

Their findings: Many companies have made significant progress during the past year to protect their infrastructures from attack, but others still face an uphill battle.

The closely guarded report, produced by members of the National Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security, will be used as a basis for the next version of the Clinton administration's plan outlining how the government and private firms must work together to bolster cybersecurity. The NPCIS is a joint effort between federal agencies and the private sector.

Officials said the banking and energy industries remain ahead of many other sectors in security preparedness. Other sectors, including telecommunications, transportation and waterways, face difficult challenges stemming from a vast array of factors such as deregulation and market fluctuations.

Ken Watson, co-chairman of the coordinating committee of the NPCIS acknowledged that progress hasn't proceeded at the same pace in all sectors.

"I have talked personally to the sector coordinators, and they are all working feverishly at this," said Watson, who's also manager of critical-infrastructure protection at Cisco Systems Inc. in San Jose. "There are some sectors that are ahead of others. However, we accept the challenge that the government has given us to protect the networks that run our infrastructure."

One indicator of progress is the pending announcement of an Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) for the IT community, similar to the ISAC that already exists for the financial services sector. The ISAC offers a secure database, analytic tools and other software that allow officials to submit reports about information security threats, vulnerabilities, incidents and solutions.

Addressing Obstacles

Tim Atkins, a member of an NPCIS working group, said the IT sector has been moving very aggressively. Any perceived slowness is due to a genuine desire by industry to protect proprietary and sensitive information on behalf of their companies, their shareholders and their clients, said Atkins, who is director of critical infrastructure protection at consulting firm SRA International Inc. in Fairfax, Va.

Thomas R. Horton, chairman of the National Association of Corporate Directors and a participant in several recent critical-infrastructure protection summit meetings, said corporate concerns regarding shareholder value and increased competition may be getting in the way of security progress at some banks, airlines and telecommunications companies.

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