SC World Congress: High hopes for new cybersecurity proposals

Updated Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008 at 1:24 p.m. EST

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and of Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said they would urge other members of Congress to fund cybersecurity initiatives at the SC World Congress Tuesday.

McCaul and Langevin were part of a panel discussing the report released Monday by the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, a group established last October by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to make recommendations for the next president.

The panel also was comprised of Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry D. Raduege Jr. and Marcus Sachs, executive director for government affairs and national security policy at Verizon Communications.

“I believe there is no option but to provide the right funding," said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the SC World Congress. "This is such a high-level economic security issue and not doing it is not an option.”

Audience member, Scott Barman, principal network systems and distributed system engineer at the nonprofit MITRE Corp. said that reading the first few pages of the report brought up about "20,000" questions for him -- but the biggest centered around funding.

“The problems we have faced in implementing security is the lack of funds,” Barman said. “I can't tell you how many projects have been [proposed] for millions of dollars only to come back with a third of the money necessary to implement -- and some of these are federally mandated programs.”

Barman then asked, “Are you going to be able to go back to your colleagues in Congress, and in these tough economic times, allow us the money to do the work?”

McCaul said that the first phase was getting out the report. The second phase is going to be implementing it.
“Jim and I have a job to do, and that's selling this to other members of Congress,” McCaul said.

The report will be given to President-elect Barack Obama. Panelists said they hope it will serve as a blueprint for how the next administration deals with cybersecurity and that it will shed light on the importance of the issue to the public.

If someone was caught taking filing cabinets out of the Pentagon it would be front-page news. And yet, in the virtual world, information theft is occurring every day and Americans may not even know it, McCaul said.

“Cyberspace is what we are,” Sachs said. “One hundred years ago, industrialization was what we were. We are the world's leader today in cyberspace. This is what we are and if we don't take it seriously, we fail.”

Langevin gave an example of a worst-case cyberattack scenario: An attack blowing up a power grid – something a cybercriminal might be able to do with the click of a mouse – could leave a portion of the country without power for months, he said.

This example highlights the need for a better public- and private-sector partnership – one of the recommendations the report calls for – since corporations control most of the nation's critical infrastructure, McCaul said.

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