Senator calls for mandatory reporting of viruses

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Homeland Security Department's virus alert system is flawed and called for a centralized plan for government response to cyberthreats.

Schumer said the e-mail alert system announced last month by DHS' National Cyber Security Division could do more harm than good.

'What DHS did was essentially challenge computer hackers all over the world to put a virus into an e-mail that mimics the DHS e-mail warnings,' Schumer said in a statement. 'If I were a betting man, I'd put a few dollars down that the next virus that clogs computer networks is going to be transmitted through an e-mail that looks like one of these DHS alerts.'

DHS announced its plan for an opt-in alert system just as the MyDoom worm was spreading across the Internet. MyDoom was the subject of the system's first alert. The system also will issue regular informational bulletins for consumers and technical readers.

Schumer called for mandatory virus reporting when attacks reach a prescribed threshold, with NCSD the central authority for disseminating information through secure channels. Rather than using e-mails, alerts would be sent through secure hotlines to national infrastructure and service providers.

Cyberthreats should be treated as seriously as threats to physical health, the senator said.

'If NCSD is going to be the lead agency for combating cyberterrorism, it needs to become the functional equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control,' Schumer said.

Schumer would make NCSD the primary federal entity for dealing with computer viruses, with authority for directing responses by the FBI, Secret Service, Defense Department and other agencies. He also called for increased funding for the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University beyond its current $25 million.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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