Monday, July 13, 2009

Why Feds Can't Stop Cyber Attacks

Gregg Carlstrom writes on The Federal Times:

Cyberattacks targeting dozens of government and business Web sites last week were “primitive” and “just a nuisance,” not very different from the attacks that target federal systems on a daily basis, experts say — but they still caught the federal government by surprise.

Experts say the sluggish reaction highlights the need for a single White House official who can coordinate a federal response to a cyberattack.
But they also say agency Web sites shouldn’t have been overwhelmed in the first place by such a primitive attack. Several agencies struggled for days to get their Web sites back online. The Transportation Department’s site was down for almost a full day; the Federal Trade Commission Web site went offline during the Fourth of July weekend and remained largely inaccessible until the evening of July 6.
That could have been prevented, experts say, if the government had better security standards in place and if agencies had invested in newer technology for their Web sites.

The federal government refuses to comment on the attacks — it refuses to even confirm that they happened. But experts say the federal response to this fairly unsophisticated attack raises troubling questions about the government’s ability to stand up to a more serious threat.

“Some agencies didn’t do well here dealing with low-level threats. What would happen with a more sophisticated attacker?” asked James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

More here.


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