Task force aims to improve US cybersecurity

'This is not a tech focus; it is a Washington focus'

The commission aims to be nonpartisan and brings together 32 security experts, apart from the four people heading the panel. Among the experts are Idaho National Laboratories' infrastructure protection strategist Michael Assante, Oracle's chief technology officer Mary Ann Davidson, Princeton University professor of computer science Edward Felten, IBM Internet Security System's CEO Tom Noonan, and Verizon's executive director for national security policy Marcus Sachs.

As of yet, there is not firm agenda for the commission, said Sachs.

"There are no assumptions," he said. "Lets just get the cybersecurity experts together and see what comes out as an agenda."

Whether online attacks could constitute terrorism is still a matter of contention today, but the ability of Internet attackers to affect financial networks, power system, and infrastructure critical to the U.S. economy is not. For example, since March, the Department of Homeland Security has been showing power companies a video of a simulated attack against a power plant using a real vulnerability. In the video, a turbine dramatically overheats while smoke pours out.

"While cybersecurity in the U.S. has improved in the last five years, the threat model continues to change and the risks to U.S. security and economic well-being are steadily increasing," Microsoft's Charney, one of the four co-chairs of the commission, said in a statement sent to SecurityFocus. "Therefore, much still needs to be done."

The commission plans to have a report outlining their recommendations to give to the next president's transitional team in December 2008.

“The next President and their administration must be prepared to hit the ground and protect America’s cyber networks,” Rep. McCaul, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cyber Security and Science and Technology, said in a statement. “As it stands now this nation is severely challenged by current cyber attacks."

This article originally appeared in Security Focus.

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