IT security work may be on hold

IT security work may be on hold

Every branch of security 'is at a top level of alert,' said Paul Connely, Washington partner in the technology security group of PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. of New York.

Connely said he has sent a message to his government customers: 'Just say the word and we'll be there.' So far, he said, the response has been, 'Thanks, but we'll get back to you,' because agencies are hunkering down right now.

This is not a time when officials in charge of data security want to change or upgrade their protection, Connely said.

Ever since the term critical infrastructure became common three years ago, protection of the nation's transportation, energy and financial sectors has focused on their computer and telecommunications networks. The Sept. 11 attacks against physical targets were a surprise.

That does not mean cyberthreats are becoming less important.

'I don't think anybody is saying this is a change in direction,' Connely said. But in the short term, IT security may take a back seat.

'On the law enforcement side, there is going to be a small, temporary reduction in cybercrime investigation and prosecution while every available agent works on protecting property and lives,' said Alan Paller, director of the SANS Institute of Bethesda, Md.

Paller said it does not mean that IT security is being ignored. He said he's been in contact with government people who have a heightened sense of urgency about IT security since the attacks.

Whether that urgency will translate into money and resources for protecting systems remains to be seen. Congress has authorized $40 billion for disaster recovery and to pursue terrorists, but it is not clear how much, if any, will be earmarked for cybersecurity. The president's newly created board, to be chaired by Richard Clarke, will operate out of White House funds.

Attorney Stephen Ryan, former general counsel to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, speaking the day before the attacks, described the level of government IT security spending as criminal in light of the threats.

'It is always easier to buy a plane, a ship or a tank,' he said.

Ryan said the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee would be a likely forum for making the case for cybersecurity funding.

About the Author

William Jackson is freelance writer and the author of the CyberEye blog.

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