Upson: Y2K was just a warmup exercise

Former Virginia CIO Don Upson said the job of securing government systems 'dwarfs Y2K,' to which CIOs devoted so much time and money just before the year 2000.

Upson said his boss at the time, former Gov. Jim Gilmore, called the extensive Y2K work 'the biggest waste of money.' That perception, Upson said yesterday at a Spy Museum breakfast sponsored by ServerVault Corp. of Dulles, Va., is 'the plight of the CIO.'

Like jugglers, CIOs now are trying to balance security risks in five areas, he said:

  • Stopping, patching and controlling damage from virus attacks

  • Fending off cyberthreats

  • Deciding when and how to share data with other government entities

  • Physically securing data centers

  • Authenticating users who have rights to change information.

  • 'We're moving back to the mainframe environment in many ways,' said Upson, who now heads the government division of webMethods Inc. of Fairfax, Va. He said the federal government has a responsibility to set priorities for states about cyberthreats by hackers and foreign governments. And, he said, data centers remain vulnerable.

    Virginia's data center prior to Sept. 11, 2001, was in a building with other tenants, and a train ran beneath it, he said. Afterward the state set up a terrorism task force to protect it. 'Outsourcing may be the best way,' Upson said.

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