High-Tech Leaders Favor Net Security Czar

A poll of high-tech and e-commerce leaders released Wednesday shows that a majority believe President Clinton should appoint a computer security czar to serve as a “watchdog” on Internet security issues.

The survey of 261 chief information officers and other business executives, conducted by CIO magazine during this week’s CIO 100 Symposium Awards Ceremony, found that 58 percent of all respondents favor the creation of the U.S. government position.

“It’s important to have someone in the federal government focusing on this issue to build awareness,” CIO editor-in-chief Abbie Lundberg told the E-Commerce Times. “This is a security issue. It has to do with cyberterrorism and the issue of whether people hack into our infrastructure.”

Privacy Concerns

The poll also found that most industry insiders favor some government regulation of the Internet but are concerned about the effect that federal snooping may have on personal privacy.

Forty percent of poll respondents worry that the FBI’s use of Carnivore — a hardware-software combination that captures the e-mail of a person under investigation — is a violation of individual privacy.

In line with those privacy concerns, 85 percent said they support legislation requiring Web sites to inform users of their data collection practices.

Cooperation Between Government and Business

“There are very high concerns about privacy and that’s something people want to see balanced,” Lundberg said. “They want help in enforcing security. That’s where the government can help.”

Lundberg added, “Because so much of the infrastructure is in private hands, it’s got to be a partnership. There has to be a real working together of government and business. I think this poll shows there’s a willingness to do that.”

On the issue of cybercrime, the poll found that despite a Computer Security Institute estimate that 74 percent of companies have experienced losses due to cybercrime, 62 percent of poll respondents said their firm has not been victimized.

Another 53 percent said they believe international law can be used to develop and enforce penalties against computer hackers.

In-House Policies Queried

The poll also showed that 77 percent of the respondents worked at firms with a defined Internet conduct policy for employees. At nearly half of the firms — 48 percent — employees have been terminated because of policy infractions.

Sexual harrassment constituted a violation at 90 percent of the respondents’ companies. Sending pornography to colleagues was a fireable offense at 84 percent of companies and compromising trade secrets was a violation at 80 percent.

Other Tidbits

When it comes to solving the information technology (IT) staffing crisis, 42 percent believe that relaxing immigration laws to allow as many as 200,000 IT workers into the United States will not solve the problem. Additionally, 62 percent agree that Congress should require foreign technology workers to teach future American employees rather than just replace them.

Forty-six percent of poll respondents chose Republicans George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as the best candidates to lead the New Economy. Democrats Al Gore and Joe Lieberman carried the support of only 28 percent, just ahead of None-of-the-Above at 26 percent.

Sixty percent of those polled favored Napster’s position on the issue of downloadable audio files, with only 21 percent countering that companies like Napster should be shut down.

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