Clinton launches plan to protect IT infrastructure

President Clinton launches a $2 billion dollar battle plan for combating cyberterrorism, including a new educational initiative to recruit and educate information technology workers.

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President Clinton today launched a $2 billion dollar battle plan for combating cyberterrorism, including a new educational initiative to recruit and educate information technology workers.

Spending for federal initiatives to protect the nation's infrastructure from cyberattacks in the United States and abroad will increase 17 percent, from $1.7 billion in fiscal 2000 to $2 billion in fiscal year 2001, government officials said today.

"We have a new economy that is dependent on information technology," Commerce Department Secretary William Daley said in a press conference this morning. "We have to protect this economy."

The plan is the result of a study ordered by Clinton, which looked into ways of protecting America's computer systems from attacks by cyberterrorists that could cripple key sectors of the economy.

The new National Plan for Information Systems Protection, version 1.0, includes a $25 million funding proposal for the Federal Cyber Services Training and Educational Initiative, which looks to meet the demand for IT workers and information security specialists.

Part of the IT education initiative calls for the federal government to identify and develop skills needed for federal IT security positions and the associated training and certification requirements.

The plan also calls for the creation of a Scholarship for Service program to recruit and educate federal IT managers by awarding scholarships for the study of information security in return for a commitment to work for a specified time for the federal government.

Skilled high school students will be identified for participation in summer work and internship programs that would lead to certification, according to federal IT work standards, and possible future employment.

The plan also includes conducting federal agency vulnerability analyses and developing agency critical infrastructure protection plans.

White House officials said the government will design a Federal Intrusion Detection Network to monitor attacks on government agency systems. To protect vital systems in federal civilian agencies, the government is funding the development of a "cyberburglar alarm," which alerts the federal government to cyberattacks, provides recommended defenses, and ensures quick patches for any breaches of security.

"This is the first time the federal government cannot protect our own infrastructure by just raising an army," said Daley. "This is version 1.0 of a national plan that shows what we in the federal government can do to protect our federal systems. In future versions we will include the private sector in order to become a true national effort."

The number of security incidents handled by Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center, a federally funded emergency response team, rose from 1,334 in 1993 to 4,398 during the first half of 1999.

Organized attacks, such as one code-named Solar Sunrise on Defense Department computers in February 1998, and computer viruses such as Melissa, which struck last year, highlight the government's susceptibility, the nonpartisan General Accounting Office said.

Reuters contributed to this report.