New cybersecurity adviser proposes safe, government-only network

New cybersecurity adviser proposes safe, government-only network

As one of his first acts as special adviser to the president for cyberspace security, Richard Clarke has asked telecommunications companies for information about building a secure, dedicated government network.

The proposed GovNet would be literally'not virtually'a private voice and IP data network with no connections to public voice or data networks. It would be offered as a service by a commercial provider to government agencies and authorized users.

The idea dates to before last month's terrorist attacks, said Clarke, who was named to his new position yesterday.

'Planning for this network has been going on for several months,' he said.

Early on the morning of Sept. 11, Clarke had said that some government activities might be moved off public networks to dedicated government infrastructure. 'We should think about whether some government functions should be air-gapped, physically separated from the IP cloud, using the fiber optics that are already out there,' he said.

The request for information was released through the General Services Administration. Companies will provide information on the technical feasibility of such a network, its approximate cost, availability of unused network capacity, schedule estimates and alternative proposals by Nov. 21. There is no schedule for awarding a contract, but the government is requiring that the network be up and running within six months of an award.

Initial requirements call for a totally separate IP network, with voice and video capabilities to be added within six months of its launch. GovNet would provide commercial grade voice service, high levels of reliability and be impossible to attack from the outside. It would support encrypted classified traffic.

GovNet is not intended for all government traffic, and agencies will continue to use public networks such as the Internet. But it would provide a high level of security for those agencies needing it.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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