Cyber terrorism threat underestimated, experts say

Wednesday, September 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Computer and telecommunications systems are becoming more vulnerable to criminal attacks, and the nation lacks the trained workforce to counter them, security experts said Wednesday.

Some of the government's top cyber terrorism experts also warned during a security workshop that the threats to information systems aren't being taken seriously.

Recent hacker invasions at Disney World, Bloomberg LP and other companies are just the "tip of the iceberg," said Richard Clarke, President Clinton's national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism.

"The Air Force alone noted over 300,000 attempts of unauthorized intrusion last year," he said. "This isn't something of the future. It's something that's happening every day."

Clarke spoke at a University of Tulsa workshop on safeguarding the national computer and telecommunications infrastructure. The university is one of 14 schools nationwide designated a Center of Excellence on Information Assurance by the National Security Agency.

The university's Center for Information Security is charged with conducting research and outreach to help address vulnerabilities.

Michael Jacobs, deputy director for information systems security at the National Security Agency, said there seems to be a reluctance on the part of the networked community to accept the warnings about security risks, despite actual hacker attacks upon both the government and industry.

"Today we are under attack on a nearly daily basis. ... Many see the potential for an electronic Pearl Harbor before we adequately respond," he said.

Both Clarke and Jacobs stressed the need for workers trained in information security. Jacobs said 95,000 information technology workers are needed each year in the United States but currently there are only about 25,000 graduates per year.

"We are insufficiently manned and very poorly prepared to deal with what's ahead," he said.

They also stressed the need for partnerships among the government, industry and academia to combat cyber criminals ranging from independent hackers to nation states.

Clarke said business-to-business exchanges, deregulation of electric power and the expansion of wireless technology are among the developments that are potential sources of new vulnerability.