Thought for the day: Campaign for an invincible internet

The internet is a crucial part of our critical infrastructure, yet there is little in place to protect it from attack. Simon...

Simon Moores  
The internet can now be considered a crucial part of the UK's critical infrastructure, yet there is little to protect it from attack. Simon Moores calls for a government-led homeland security initiative.

 

 

If, like me, you see the internet as a vital part of our critical national infrastructure, then the past 12 months will have revealed some uncomfortable gaps.

The Sobig worm, you may remember, played havoc with the BT network and few ISPs remained working at full capacity as they fended off one attack after another last summer. “We were a little more prepared than BT,” says my own ISP, “But it certainly slowed down our network."

These were, however, nuisance incidents. Businesses tottered on, even though many, my own included, had to resort to using a dial-up account when broadband access disappeared for hours at a time.

This year, it may happen again, and I doubt many Computer Weekly readers are prepared to bet that 2004 will be a more incident-free year than 2003. As each month passes, the internet becomes more mission critical to the interests of the nation, and I wonder if government are really giving the matter sufficient attention.

Instant communications now has an importance, which it never quite possessed in the past. Experience shows us that when communications systems fail, they often fail catastrophically, leaving large sections of the country cut off and paralysed from a business perspective.

In the UK, we find our internet communications centralised around the large "pipes" that connect us with the rest of the world. As an example, Docklands-based Telehouse is a locus for five major networks and manages 80% of London’s communications capacity.

Clustered around Telehouse are a number of other companies providing rack space, security and communications for hundreds, if not thousands of businesses. If you happen to be looking outside London, then there’s Oswestry, BT’s principal communications centre.

We have, in an age of global terrorism, many, if not all of our eggs in a single basket and I worry over the level of our failover capacity in the event of a concerted viral or physical attack on our communications infrastructure.

Last year, shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin suggested that we consider establishing an agency similar to the US Department of Homeland Security, and home secretary David Blunkett promptly shot the idea down in flames.

I am not completely in favour of following every example which comes out of Washington, but in this case I think we need to seriously consider protecting our vital communications infrastructure with a well-funded agency and not by committee, which is what I see at present and with it, the risk of a "Digital Dunkirk" one day in the future.

What do you think?

Does the UK need the equivalent of the US Department of Homeland Security?  Tell us in an e-mail >>  ComputerWeekly.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com 

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