WASHINGTON - Americas computer infrastructure is highly vulnerable to attack and will likely be targeted in the near future, a panel of security experts told Congress.
Leading experts painted a grim picture of the ability of Americas critical infrastructure to withstand direct and sustained electronic attacks, in a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations on Sept. 26. "The threat is even greater today than before Sept. 11," said Michael Vatis, director of the Institute for Security Technology Studies at Dartmouth College and former director of the National Infrastructure Protection Center.
Vatis said the likelihood of cyberattacks against U.S. and allied information infrastructures is great and could come from both nation states and terrorist sympathizers. Such strikes would be aimed at high-profile government and corporate networks and could use worms, viruses, denial-of-service attacks and intrusions.
The sole upbeat voice at the hearing was that of Ron Dick, director of the National Infrastructure Protection Center at the FBI. "In the face of the tragic events of two weeks ago, I come before you today to relay a strong sense of optimism . . . While the terrorists were building their networks, so, too, were we," he said.
But his testimony did little to lift the gloominess delivered by Joel Willemssen, managing director of Information Technology Issues at the General Accounting Office. "Despite the importance of maintaining the integrity, confidentiality and availability of important federal computerized operations, [they] have significant pervasive weaknesses and continue to put critical operations and assets at risk," he said.
The GAO audited 24 federal agencies in 1998 and 2000, and reported finding "significant information security weaknesses" in all of them.