FBI official calls for alternate Internet to secure critical systems

The United States needs an alternate, transparent, restricted Internet if it is to secure the critical systems that handle such things as utilities and financial transactions, an FBI official says.

Shawn Henry, the bureau’s executive assistant director, speaking at the International Systems Security Association conference recently, said the increasing numbers of cyber threats continue to outpace efforts to defend critical computer systems. These efforts are further hampered by the anonymity of the Internet.

“We can't tech our way out of the cyber threat," Henry said, according to the Associated Press. "The challenge with the Internet is you don't know who's launching the attack."

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office released a report stating that information security incidents at 24 federal agencies have increased 650 percent during the past five years due to a combination of more numerous threats and persistent shortcomings in security controls, GCN reported.

Having an alternate Internet accessible only by known, trusted parties, with no anonymity, would greatly improve defense efforts, said Henry, who called cyber threats one of the "most serious threats" facing the nation, reported eWeek

Henry called the Internet "arguably the greatest invention" but at the same time an "incredibly dangerous place," eWeek reported. He also advocated taking highly sensitive information completely offline.

Henry is not the only FBI official calling for a separate, more secure network, nor is the FBI the first to mention such an option. At the May Federal Computer Week Federal Executive Briefing on risk mitigation, Steven Chabinsky, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, also called for an alternate network with greater visibility and less privacy, GCN reported

“There is no such thing as safe and secure cloud computing because there is no such thing as safe and secure computing,” he said. Chabinsky stopped short of suggesting a separate Internet or proposing a specific architecture.

And people file-sharing information pirates, upset that a group such as WikiLeaks can lose its Web hosting company after running afoul of authorities, have talked about building their own alternate Internet registry, New Scientist reported.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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