Industry, Feds open security dialogue

US commerce secretary William M Daley has announced the beginning of a dialogue between the federal government and business on protecting the nation's networked computing systems.

Daley met today with representatives of 80 major companies before announcing the launch of the Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security, which is intended to combine government and industry efforts to address the needs of specific critical infrastructure segments.

The partnership will bring US industry and government together to collaborate on ways to ensure that national critical infrastructures continue to deliver services vital to defense, economy and social well-being into the next millennium, according to a release issued by the Information Technology Association of America.

The US, which is more dependent on information technologies than any other country, is also more subject to threats, Daley said in a statement issued by the Commerce Department.

Daley said the US has 60 per cent of the world's Internet assets, 40 per cent of the world's computing power and 2 billion miles of fibre-optic and copper cable that provide data and voice services.

The growing dependency of US critical infrastructures on computer systems presents new challenges and potential risks that must be addressed and managed, since disruptions to these infrastructures increasingly may affect the nation's security, economic competitiveness and public welfare, he said.

Because the majority of the country's critical infrastructure is privately owned and operated, the government cannot mandate a solution, Daley said. Most of the challenges are best handled by industry itself, but some are better met by industry and government working together, he said.

Representatives of government and industry already have begun addressing the needs of specific infrastructure sectors, but the partnership is intended to bring together these efforts to facilitate a broader industry dialogue and to serve as a catalyst for action, according to the release. Government and industry representatives will meet again early next year to identify and begin addressing specific areas of mutual interest.

The Clinton administration already has formed three organizations to provide critical infrastructure protection. The most recently created group, the National Infrastructure Assurance, was announced in July.

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