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Big White House Y2K Planning Session

Big White House Y2K Planning Session: Government, Industry Leaders Focus On Disaster Recovery

Editor's note: This is part one of an ongoing series on the work and goals of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office.

By David M. Bresnahan, ) 1999

Foreign terrorists, domestic terrorists, computer hackers, natural disasters, and the Y2K computer bug all pose a significant threat to industry and government. Some of the top minds met in the White House Conference Center yesterday to find solutions.

A national effort to reconstitute failed computer systems is essential, they concluded. It doesn't matter if computers controlling our nation's infrastructure fail because of Y2K or cyber attack. If they fail, they will need to be restored, it was decided.

"It's important that we create a national capability to reconstitute after a electronic or cyber intrusion. If you think about Y2K, if systems fail as a result of Y2K, we're going to need a national reconstitution system in order to fix those systems. They're not going to come back of their own accord," explained Jeffrey Hunker, director of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office.

Over 60 experts from private industry and federal agencies met together to discuss the creation of a the Information Sharing and Assessment Center. ISAC will serve as a clearinghouse for gathering, analyzing, and disseminating information between government agencies and private sector critical industries in an effort to defend against threats to critical infrastructures.

"Building a close working relationship between industry and government is a complex challenge, but absolutely crucial if we are to succeed in protecting the nation's information systems from organized attacks," said Hunker in an interview with WorldNetDaily, following the meeting.

The conference was hosted by the White House, the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, and the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office. Its purpose was to bring together industry and government leaders who have a common interest in securing the information systems on which power, transportation, banking, and telecommunications networks depend.

The Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office was formed as a result of Presidential Decision Directive 63, a classified order signed by President Clinton May 22, 1998. That directive called on the federal government to establish the ISAC, which was the purpose of the White House session.

Leaders studied eight different models for the design of ISAC. Plans for future legislation were also discussed. Private industry has been reluctant to share experiences with threats to communications and computer systems with other companies, or with government officials. Virtually all cyber attacks have gone unreported, according to Hunker.

"Today we heard some very good ideas on the information sharing process. This is a unique area of concern for industry and government. This meeting has initiated an important dialogue, and I am very encouraged about our cooperative efforts in infrastructure protection," said Stephen Katz, vice president and chief information security officer of Citigroup. Katz, who serves as the banking and finance industry liaison to the government, moderated the conference.

The meeting participants consider the Y2K computer problem as just one of many threats to the nation's infrastructure. The government is including private industry in plans for prevention and remediation of threats to infrastructure, because so much of what we depend on is operated and owned by privately owned businesses.

Communications, power supply, transportation, and banking are all information system dependent industries that the entire nation depends on every day. A failure by one will cause failures in others. Every agency of government depends on these private sector services, and until now those industries have avoided contact with government as much as possible.

The Y2K threat has brought many interests together, according to Hunker. Whether the threat is Y2K or cyber-terrorism, the prevention and remediation are about the same.

"A lot of the work people have had to do for Y2K preparedness is actually the foundation of the work that they need to do for information systems security preparedness as well," he told WorldNetDaily. "It's an amazing fact but both within the federal government and within the corporate community most people had never actually mapped out and prioritized their information systems until they were essentially forced to do that because they had to deal with the Y2K problem.

"You have to do that same sort of mapping out understanding what your connections are, what is most important, what is less important -- you have to do that same sort of process if you're going to think about system security as well. So, a lot of the foundational work that's been done for Y2K is exactly the same work that would've had to been done in terms of the security issues that we're talking about."

The Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office is working closely with the President's Council on the Year 2000 and with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create a national Y2K reconstitution capability.

"If there are problems, there will be someone who can be called to help provide some advice in terms of work-arounds, or how to get the systems back up and operating again," explained Hunker.
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-- Leska (, January 16, 1999


Could this be the meeting Linda A. is referring to?

-- Ashton (, January 16, 1999.

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