Y2K Progeny?

ISPS' effort to monitor networks advances

Internet service companies are getting close to establishing a nonprofit organization to monitor the pipes of about 20 members, in an effort to keep Internet Protocol networks critical for national security up and running at all times.

Managed services firm Genuity, Web hoster Conxion and the Internet Operators Group, an industry consortium, are setting up the self-monitoring agency, which would share information with the National Infrastructure Protection Center.

Members are expected to pay about $7,000 per year to participate, and in return will receive advance warning of events that could impact their companies operations. The group is close to picking a contractor to administer the actual monitoring functions.

"Id like to get it done by the end of 2001, but I dont know what kind of contingencies we are looking at once we get into the finer details," said Kelly Cooper, the Genuity Internet security engineer who is coordinating the nonprofits launch on behalf of his company.

The new organization is expected to take the form of an Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), a format proposed by former President Bill Clinton in a 1998 directive. Such centers are supposed to act as a "mechanism for gathering, analyzing, appropriately sanitizing and disseminating private-sector information . . . for sharing important information about vulnerabilities, threats, intrusions and anomalies."

A few ISACs — for the energy, oil and telecommunications industries — have already been established. More have been proposed for the aerospace, defense, railroad and water industries.

The contractor for the ISPs project is expected to have bicoastal network operations centers and be familiar with the type of requirements that running an ISAC might entail, Genuitys Cooper said.

Varied Membership

"Names of contractors? Global Integrity [now Predictive Systems] and Internet Security Systems are supporting some of the ISACs," noted Bernie Farrell, manager at the National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications.

Organizers want the ISAC to have at least 20 members, and to include companies other than ISPs — such as large long-haul carriers, Web hosters and access companies, according to Ira Richar, executive director at the Internet Operators Group.

It is still not clear how popular the initiative will be with the IP services industry. Cooper pitched the idea at a recent gathering of the North American Network Operators Group, but doesnt have any formal feedback yet.

Some participants said the idea for such a body came from participating in the Information Coordination Center initiative while monitoring global networks for signs of the year-2000 (Y2K) bug, a crisis that failed to materialize.

"Some of the same people that participated with IOPS [the Internet Operators Group] in the Y2K effort are now considering this ISAC," said Conxion Chairman and CEO Antonio Salerno, who is also involved in the launch of the new organization.