Presidential adviser calls for unity on cyberspace defence

Government partnerships with the private sector are crucial to defend cyberspace; this includes laws to protect information sharing between the two parties, one of the top cyber security advisers to US President George Bush told Australia's IT industry on Tuesday.

Speaking at the IT Business Forum in Adelaide yesterday vice chairman of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, Howard Schmidt, said private sector participation in protecting the national infrastructure is critical, as utilities, telecommunications and air traffic are privately owned but any information shared should remain confidential.

Schmidt said the US is examining amendments to the Freedom of Information Act so private sector information shared with the government is classified and not made available under the Act.

"We want to make an exception under the law so this information is protected and not available under freedom of information," he said.

Aiming to improve trust between industry and government, Schmidt said he wants to stem the cynicism that arises when government officials arrive at a company proclaiming: "We're from the government and we are here to help you." When this statement is made to industry, Schmidt said, it often leads to laughter; this needs to change, he added.

In the wake of September 11, Schmidt said the US Government is actively developing a national strategy, which incorporates international objectives, to defend cyberspace.

He said these initiatives include proposals for Govnet (a private fibre network), scholarships for IT security professionals, a National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Centre to recreate worst case scenarios and a Cyber Warning and Information Network (CWIN).

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