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As concerns over Y2K related problems become yesterday’s news for our government officials, their eyes are turning to another problem that has plagued our nations computer networks and infrastructure for 3 or more years. This problem has been brought on by a breed of criminals whose world is completely detached from that of the normal criminal. Cyber-criminals or malicious hackers (not to be confused with white hat hackers, but are more commonly known as crackers) have caused this nations networks a great deal of grief. They have posted a threat, which in the past the United States has been grossly under-prepared for, however, President Clinton has a plan to change that. It is not outside the United States’ ability to become fully equipped to deal with this problem quickly.
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Although this problem has been on the minds of our defense officials for quite some time now, they have not done enough to rectify the problem. This is why on Friday President Clinton announced his plans to step up the United States’ cyber defenses. Cyber-terrorism has been pushed towards the top of the list of threats facing America in the next 100 years. After a National Press Club speech, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger said, “I think there’s a whole new realm of the threat we’re going to be dealing with. The ability to take weapons of mass destruction across national borders with relative ease; the ability to attack our computers that run our infrastructure through cyber-terrorism.
Script kiddies, hackers-gone-bad, and foreign governments with malicious intent have posed the threat of cyber-terrorism and Clinton’s concerns, however long overdue have brought an action against this threat. The proposed plan would require additional funding for the monitoring and protection of government computer systems. This additional funding would be used to develop new technologies, increase public and private awareness and cooperation against computer crime and most importantly to improve the skill level currently present in government agents. Overall this will boost protection of the government, military, and educational (among others) computer systems within the United States. However, the amount of funding that would be needed was not specified.
This plan follows on the heels of the announcements of plans for a controversial system that would monitor federal networks and alert authorities automatically in the case of an intrusion. Its name is FIDNET (Federal Intrusion Detection Network) and controversy or not, it looks like some form of FIDNET will be in place sooner or later. The monitoring of federal networks by FIDNET includes electronic obstacles, monitors, and analyzers, however, what made it so controversial was the fear of this networks ability to spy on private and commercial electronic communications, despite the FBI’s insisting that it wouldn’t. The first 500 intrusion monitors were to be installed on non-military government computers early this year, and the full system was to be computed by May 2003.
In addition to FIDNET, another highly controversial network has made headlines; Echelon. This so-called “Spy Network”, whose existence has been confirmed by the intelligence agencies of New Zealand and Australia, has been known and talked about in close-knit intelligence circles for years. This is the first time, however, that the public has become aware of it, and the public has not taken a liking to it. The fear of their privacy being breached has driven the American people to take a strong stand against the NSA (National Security Agency) which is the agency that supposedly runs Echelon. The Agency, however, has kept very tight-lipped regarding Echelon, refusing to provide Congress with records of their spy activities and responding to FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) requests with neither a confirmation nor a denial of information on Echelons existence