US: High-Tech Firms Setup Computer Defense Hub : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Tuesday January 16 4:54 PM ET High-Tech Firms Set Up Computer Defense Hub

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nineteen top U.S. high-tech companies said on Tuesday they were founding a much-heralded computer defense center, a move sought by the Clinton administration to boost U.S. bulwarks against cyberthreats.

The new ``information sharing and analysis center,'' the fourth of its kind, is aimed at spotting threats to the information technology industry and alerting members so they can respond promptly.

Among the founding members were AT&T, Cisco Systems, Computer Associates, Computer Sciences Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp., Entrust Technologies, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, KPMG Consulting and Microsoft.

Microsoft, whose Windows operating system is the face of computing to most users, said it viewed critical infrastructure protection as a civic responsibility.

By sharing threat and vulnerability information through the new hub, Microsoft said in a statement, ``we join with these leading companies to create a more secure Internet with better defenses against criminal hackers.''

President Clinton (news - web sites)'s top aide on infrastructure protection hailed the new unit as a ``patriotic move'' by its founders who have agreed to share sensitive data about potential vulnerabilities to attack.

``It is remarkable that these competitors have come help preserve the economy and to help preserve the national security,'' Richard Clarke, national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism, told a news conference.

He said the government was prepared to share classified information with such industry-led cyberclearing houses once ''trusted paths'' for handling it have been worked out.

The rollout of the new unit took place in the office of outgoing Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta, who said he hoped to preside over creation of similar industry centers if confirmed as President-elect George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s transportation secretary as expected.

``What we are doing is sending a strong signal to would-be attackers that we are not going to let you get away with cyberterrorism,'' he said.

While U.S. officials made clear they were looking forward to working hand-in-hand with the new center, an industry handout said the government ``will not play an immediate role in the organization.''

Under current plans, companies can unilaterally share information with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies but the computer defense center will not do so, the industry fact sheet said.

The board, currently made up of the 19 founding members, later ``may decide on a more direct relationship with the government,'' according to the fact sheet prepared by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a prime mover in setting up the center.

An early issue for the industry partnership will be to seek exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for any data eventually shared with the authorities, said ITAA President Harris Miller.

Membership in the new cyberclearing house is open to all U.S.-based information technology companies. Annual dues are set at $5,000. Members will get notices around the clock warning them of newly detected threats and suggested technical responses.

Technical operations will be run by Internet Security Systems, an information security firm based in Atlanta, GA.

The center, set up as a not-for-profit corporation, began to take shape in earnest after the so-called denial of service attacks that briefly disrupted access to major commercial Web sites last February, including (news - web sites), Yahoo!, eBay, e-Trade, ZDNet, and

The remaining founders of the new center are Nortel Networks, Oracle Corp., RSA Security, Securify, Inc., Symantec Corp., Titan Systems Corp, Veridian, and VeriSign Global Registry Services.

The three existing computer defense centers cover the financial services industry; telecommunications, which includes both government and industry members; and electric power. Companies in the transportation sector plan to meet in early February to discuss the creation of such a unit, the Commerce Department said.

-- Rachel Gibson (, January 16, 2001

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