By Liza Porteus Viana
December 11, 2007
NEW YORK -- Private industry and governments need to make cyber security
a priority, no matter what the cost, in order to defeat hackers and
terrorists and to keep operations running during a crisis, a federal
official said here Tuesday.
Private industry owns and operates more than 85 percent of the country's
critical infrastructures. "That means the federal government cannot
address these cyber threats alone," said Greg Garcia, the Homeland
Security assistant secretary who heads the national cyber-security
Garcia addressed the New York City Metro InfraGard Alliance blocks from
the World Trade Center site attacked by terrorists Sept. 11, 2001.
InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI, local law enforcement and
the private sector aimed at protecting critical infrastructures,
including technology systems.
"You all know our adversaries will stop at nothing to destroy the
infrastructures we all work so hard to protect. ... We're all at risk,
we're all responsible. and there's much more we have to do to protect
our critical systems," Garcia said. "New York is the world's financial
nucleus. ... As Wall Street goes, so does the rest of the economy."
About $5.5 trillion to $6 trillion runs through the U.S. financial
system each day, including paycheck delivery and withdrawals from
automatic teller machines. Still, Garcia said, large household-name
companies are leaving their networks exposed to infiltration and data
The federal government relies heavily on organizations like InfraGard
and information-sharing and analysis centers for specific economic
sectors to force industry to take cyber precautions. He said that
partnership is particularly important given that hackers are becoming
more sophisticated, and that malicious codes and software are now sold
cheaply over the Internet.
Garcia said there is a $100 billion market for cyber crime -- more than
the illegal drug market. From fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2007, the U.S.
Computer Emergency Readiness Team handled more than 37,000 incidents,
compared with about 24,000 in fiscal 2006.
"Unfortunately, none of this is going to dissipate if we don't have the
same level of coordination and organization our adversaries have against
us," Garcia said.
On the government side, the Homeland Security Department's Einstein
network monitors systems for abnormalities or intrusions and circulates
threat information within hours. Einstein is used by 13 agencies, but
Garcia wants all to subscribe.
"There's strength in numbers," the assistant secretary said. "Just like
beat cops, out-of-the-ordinary events or activities can tip off cyber
responders to potential trouble."
Industry also needs to consider physical threats that could affect
networks, such as a pandemic flu outbreak, Garcia said. Companies must
ensure that their businesses can operate via telecommuting during a
crisis and that their networks don't become bottlenecked, he said. They
should boost network security ahead of time to ensure continuity of
If the businesses don't do this, Garcia said, "our economy -- in fact,
our very way of life -- is going to be at stake."
Garcia toured the city's wireless network operations and emergency
management centers, and spoke with city leaders about how they are
managing and securing communications systems designed to operate across
In March, the department will conduct an exercise to practice
coordinated responses to simulated strings of cyber attacks affecting
all levels of government and industry.
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