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Presidential Candidates on Cybersecurity

CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association), a global trade association representing the business interests of the information technology industry, will hold an interactive briefing this week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on the tech policy positions of President George W. Bush and Senator John F. Kerry.  Leading tech policy experts will explain key issues and break down the positions of each candidate on such issues as spam, broadband deployment, tech workforce development, unlicensed wireless spectrum, and cybersecurity (among others).

CompTIA created a voter's election guide from the candidates’ responses (see "Election 2004: Bush and Kerry on Technology"). Here is what the two candidates had to say about cybersecurity.

Bush Response:

Given the enormous importance of e-commerce, Internet-based communications, and the use of cyberspace to control portions of our physical infrastructure, cyber security is critical. The investments being made today in securing out Nation's cyber infrastructure and in cyber security R&D are working to ensure that future generations of network software and hardware are less vulnerable to an attack and can maintain critical operations even when compromised.

I announced the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace in February 2003. This plan, which complements the National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets, depends on both public and private efforts to secure the many elements that comprise the national information infrastructure, including routers, switches, fiber-optic cables, and tens of millions of interconnected computers. The strategy provides five national cyber security priorities: a national security response system; vulnerability reduction program; an awareness and training program; a government cyberspace security program; and national security and international cyberspace security cooperation.

Kerry Response:

In particular, worms and viruses are causing economic losses of billions of dollars a year. Experts have argued that future worms could allow attackers to rapidly control millions of Internet-connected computers. They could then use those computers to launch "denial of service attacks," or steal and corrupt large quantities of sensitive information. Moreover, these worms could reach most vulnerable targets in an hour or less. We need a president who is actively supportive of developing technologies that will automatically detect and respond to these kinds of attacks.

We need a president who will devote the energy of the White House to making our networks - our 21st century infrastructure - stronger and more secure. That means supporting a cyber security intelligence system ready to detect these threats. I will implement global standards and best practices so that weak links are strengthened. And we need a real partnership between the public and private sectors. Most of the infrastructure we need to protect doesn't belong to government - and neither government nor business can fix these problems alone.

Of course, we have seen the track record of President Bush which by many accounts has given insufficient attention to cybersecurity. In fact, many have claimed that the (relatively small) budget devoted to cybersecurity in the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) is a clear indication that it has not received priority consideration under the Bush Administration. Additionally, as "The Revolving Door at DHS Continues" there has not been a continuity of leadership to inspire higher education and the private sector to have much faith in the public sector contributions to implementing the National Strategy. On the other hand, it is not clear what Kerry means when he states that "we need a real partnership between the public and private sectors." The National Cyber Security Partnership and other similar efforts are evidence of an attempt of the private sector to step up to the challenge. However, it is encouraging to hear him promise to "devote the energy of the White House to making our networks stronger and more secure."

There is little doubt that the outcome of the elections could set the stage for future directions of cybersecurity under the White House and DHS. A new administration will mean a new secretary of DHS and other changes (for better or worse). Many expect further personnel changes in DHS even if President Bush wins a second term. And, of course, there is the recent sentiments of Congress, supported in part by DHS's Secretary Ridge, that cybersecurity should be elevated in the DHS management. But the real battles for cybersecurity will continue to be fought in the corporate board rooms, within the management ranks of both private and public sector organizations, and the IT operations centers where the latest vulnerabilities are exposed.

See the CompTIA press release and a related news story by internet news ("Bush, Kerry Agree on P2P").

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