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Officials worry as cyber security protections fail to keep pace with hackers

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, July 28, 2011

While the federal government has been vying for years to overhaul its cyber security protocols, it has consistently failed to develop a system of critical infrastructure protections (CIP) that will effectively deter cyber criminals. According to a published report threats to U.S. critical infrastructure continue to grow as the government fails to react quickly enough.

Government Computer News reports that presidential administrations over the past 13 years have asserted that the country's computer networks are vulnerable to cyber security infiltrations. Critics, however, charge that on the one hand, the government publicly asserts that new guidelines must be created, but on the other it is too bogged down in bureaucracy to enact such policies.

This month, government officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned public officials in Washington that critical infrastructure systems in the U.S. could be attacked in a number of ways.

The Stuxnet worm, which was used to target and destroy industrial equipment controlling Iran's nuclear power program, has been public to researchers and others on the internet for nearly a year. According to government officials, that has given hackers and governments across the globe ample time to tweak the Stuxnet's code so it could attack the U.S.' industrial control systems.

The government has largely failed to enact policies that will better protect computer networks of businesses and grid operators, Government Accountability Office director of information security issues Gregory Wilshusen said this week.

"Despite the actions taken by several successive administrations and the executive branch agencies, significant challenges remain to enhancing the protection of cyber-reliant critical infrastructures," he told members of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee this week in Washington.

"The threats to information systems are evolving and growing, and systems supporting our nation’s critical infrastructure are not sufficiently protected to consistently thwart the threats," he added.

The Obama Administration, mimicking the actions of its predecessors, has affirmed its commitment to the development of the nation's power supply network. In June, the administration released a guideline of how the U.S. can proceed to invest in the smart grid, but officials have warned that proper cyber security measures must similarly be implemented to ensure that customer data and the country's power supply is not vulnerable to attack.

Still, the task is no easy feat and while government researchers are working to develop increasingly sophisticated cyber security defense systems, hackers are likewise finding new vulnerabilities to exploit.

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