Clinton says cyberattacks an "alarm" for companies

The president calls last week?s devastating hacker attacks an "alarm" for companies and high-tech experts to address pressing issues of Internet security.

3 min read
President Clinton today called last week?s devastating hacker attacks on leading Web sites an "alarm" for companies and high-tech experts to address pressing issues of Internet security.

The president stressed the importance of the attacks in light of the growing need for Net security during a press conference today, yet he said the situation couldn?t be considered an all-out Internet war.

"It's a source of concern but, I don't think we should leave here with this vast sense of insecurity," Clinton said, according to a Reuters report.

The meeting was not originally planned for today but was quickly added to the president's schedule given the severity of the attacks last week, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said.

"Distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attacks flood Web sites by hitting them with repeated nonsense requests for information. While the sabotage did not involve breaking into the servers of e-commerce sites to steal credit card numbers or other private information, the attacks crippled the sites and piled up huge losses for e-tailers ahead of Valentine's Day--a heavy shopping period.

In a separate press call today, Commerce Department secretary William Daley outlined today?s meeting with the president. Daley said the private sector, not the government, needed to step up its efforts to ensure that the Internet becomes more secure.

"We strongly believe this is not going to be solved by regulation," Daley said. "It's got to be solved by private sector in taking security issues seriously."

Daley added the summit today also stressed that boosting security should not come at the expense of individual privacy.

"We all must protect the individual liberties and the privacy rights of...individuals," Daley said during the conference.

Meanwhile, Daley added that the Clinton administration asked Congress for $2 billion to beef up the security in the government's own computer network.

Part of the $2 billion, if approved, would be appropriated into research and development for securing hardware, software and computer networks against attacks. Daley noted that today's meeting with industry executives decided to increase emphasis on research and development costs.

The White House plans to propose an Internet security center called the Cyber National Information Center--or Cyber-NIC--as a think tank where companies can team to tackle security problems and crises like last week's attacks, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"The ideas we'll put forward (today) will be seen as how the government can serve as an ally both in protecting the federal resources that we have and in trying to help in the private sector," said Lockhart. "I think they will also spend some time talking about the current situation and seeing if there is more we can do, if we've shared all the information that needs to be shared."

special report At a press conference last week, Daley called the attacks a "wake-up call," saying that it "confirms what many of us have been saying for the past two years."

Attorney General Janet Reno and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger were also present at today's meeting.

Companies that participated in the meeting included eBay and Yahoo--which were forced to a grinding halt by the attacks--as well as representatives from 18 other companies, including Cisco Systems.

News.com's Jim Hu and Reuters contributed to this report.