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MS, Oracle, Intel et al share security secrets

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Some of the biggest names in the US high tech sector have put aside their differences to launch a cyber-crime fighting club.

Nineteen companies, including Microsoft, Oracle and Intel, have formed the Information Technology Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (IT-ISAC). The idea is that members will share security secrets on hacking threats, as well as reveal weaknesses in their company software and hardware. They will also swap information with the government.

Members have contributed a total of $750,000 to start the non-profit centre, run by Atlanta-based Internet Security Systems. It will offer 24/7 advice to members, alerting them to potential hack attacks and vulnerabilities.

Latecomers will have to cough up $5,000 per year to join the organisation.

Speaking today in Washington, Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta, said: "We cannot sit idly by and let this [e-commerce] be a target for hackers."

Mineta, no doubt warming up to his upcoming role as Transportation Secretary in the Bush administration, said the move was: "Sending a strong signal to would-be attackers that we are not going to let them get away with cyber-terrorism. We stand united."

While a good idea in theory, it will be interesting to see if the group works. Despite its title - dubbed "a terrible name" by Richard Clarke, national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism - the group faces another major hurdle. Can bitter foes such as Microsoft and Oracle really be trusted to put aside their wrangles and share secrets about weaknesses in their company systems?

It is not long since Oracle admitted rummaging in Microsoft's garbage for confidential tit-bits.

But in the days of cyber-terrorism that's all in the past. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as Mary-Ann Davidson, Oracle security product manager, launched into here speech today: "No man is an island. And nowhere is this more apparent than in protecting the nation's infrastructure."

"Every one of us has been or will be attacked in cyberspace," she said. "A threat against one is truly a threat against all." ®

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