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"Just because no one has made a mass attack on the IT infrastructure, it does not mean it cannot happen. What we need is an international strategy to secure cyberspace," said Richard Clarke, president George W Bush's advisor on Internet security.
He added that to reach this aim governments and industry have to accept that the costs and the burden need to be shared. "A survey by Forrester Group showed that the average company's percentage revenue spend on IT security was 0.0025%. This is less than they spend on coffee. At this rate they not only will be hacked but they deserve to be hacked."
The US government is disillusioned with the Internet and is currently debating the possibility of forming a private network, dubbed Govnet.
"With hackers and viruses so prevalent, we have to ask whether everything really needs to be connected with everything else. Do we want the power grid or air traffic control system to be able to be accessed from Beijing, Beirut or Baltimore?" asked Clarke.
Art Coviello, chief executive of RSA Security, said, "If Tony Blair wants to make the UK the place to do e-business by 2005, the Government has to be a model, an example for companies to follow."
Coviello and Clarke agree that although legislation against hackers is required, legislation to force companies to comply with an arbitrary set of rules is not the best way forward.
"Dick Clarke is not threatening businesses with regulation but suggesting that security companies such as RSA, and the public utilities and financial institutions get together," said Coviello. "There is no point looking at technology and the industry and saying that the Government's view is the only view."