Security Bytes

Dec 22 2009   1:03PM GMT

Hathaway calls for international cybercrime task force

Robert Westervelt Robert Westervelt Profile: Robert Westervelt

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Former White House official calls for international task force to combat cyberattacks against information systems.

Melissa Hathway, who headed a White House study that is the being used as the blueprint for the White House’s cybersecurity strategy, is urging for more international attention to the issue.

In a column outlining cybersecurity myths, Hathaway said the government should reach out to other countries, such as those in the G-8 or G-20 to form an international task force that would “combat attacks against the security and resiliency of information systems.” Her comments are on the heels of an expected White House announcement appointing security luminary Howard Schmidt as the nation’s cybersecurity coordinator. The position was announced in May and has been seen by many in the cybersecurity community as a very difficult job to undertake.

As I prepared the Cyberspace Policy Review for President Obama earlier this year, it became clear that the interdependencies that are shared nation to nation and company to company are not well understood.  Further, details on vulnerabilities of and security threats to our infrastructures and information assets tend to be closely held secrets.  It is time to knock the complacency out of the system and hold both governments and the private sector accountable for providing a secure and resilient cyberspace.

Hathaway has taken it a step further, urging for more assistance to nations that ratify the Council of Europe’s Cyber Crime Convention to fight organized cybercriminal gangs. So far more than 50 countries have signed on to the convention, which attempts to address copyright issues, computer fraud and child pornography rings by laying out a blanket policy for search and seizure of data and the interception of network traffic and extradition rules when suspected cybercriminals are in custody.

Hathaway also reiterated the call for a private-public partnership in Washington to foster more information sharing — it’s a line we’ve heard before from public officials. Many security experts agree that information sharing has improved over the last several years, pointing to the success of Dan Kaminsky’s coordinated patch to repair a major domain name system vulnerability in 2008 and the formation this year of the Conficker Working Group to combat the swiftly spreading worm.

If Hathaway’s column is any indication of the direction the White House is going to take, Schmidt has a lengthy agenda to prioritize and undertake. Not only will he have to address fundamental security issues within government agencies, but he will have to work with members of Congress in helping shape appropriate laws increasing transparency while ensuring security of sensitive data. Clearly the need for international cooperation is critical if the United States wants to taper the rising tide of Internet crime and cripple international crime rings by ensuring those in charge are brought to justice.

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