Clinton Backs New Internet Security Center

As the investigation into last week’s denial-of-service (DoS) hacker attacks narrows its focus today, U.S. President Bill Clinton is expected to propose a new Internet security center at a meeting with high-tech executives.

According to a planning document, the new Cyber-National Information Center, or Cyber-NIC, will be a place where companies can come together and work on problems that affect Internet security. Additionally, it has been reported that the White House is asking science advisor Neal Lane to spearhead the formation of a cyber-security think tank that would be supported by both the private and public sectors.

During an online interview Monday with, Clinton described last week’s attacks as “very disturbing” and commented that he hoped to use today’s summit as a way to promote Internet security.

Refocusing Programs

The White House hopes to bolster defenses against future hacker attacks by refocusing some existing programs, such as a proposal to spend $9 million (US$) on education and training of computer-security experts.

The funds, earmarked for this year, were included as a supplemental item in Clinton’s 2001 budget proposal. Nonetheless, administration officials have admitted that their efforts to beef up critical Internet security have been thwarted by a severe shortage of trained computer-security experts.

In the private sector, the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) said that it has prepared for today’s meeting by building a base of agreed-upon “best practices” that its tech-company members should adopt to also guard against future hacker attacks.

Among the companies that are expected to attend today’s meeting at the White House are Microsoft Corp., IBM, America Online, Inc., Yahoo!, Electronic Data Systems Corp., Lucent Technologies, Inc., eBay, Inc., Nortel Networks, Inc., Iridium, LLC and AT&T.

Banks Receive Advance Warning

In a separate development, it has been reported that managers of a recently-formed warning network for banks said that computer experts at some of the nation’s largest financial institutions received detailed warnings of last week’s hacker attacks days before they took place.

Banking officials did not pass those warnings to the FBI or other law enforcement agencies because they were barred from doing so under the rules of the unusual security arrangement.

In order to encourage participation by banks and other financial institutions, the U.S. Treasury Department decided that information disclosed within such a network would not be turned over to federal regulators or law enforcement agencies. However, while this arrangement worked well for the banks, it also ensured that the same warning did not reach the Web sites that fell victim to the hacker attacks.

FBI Zeroing In

Additionally, the FBI is reportedly preparing to question three possible suspects in the denial-of-service attacks after it was able to link their pseudonyms to valid names and addresses. The questioning could take place as early as today.

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