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Congressman Stephen Horn, R-CA Chairman


Oversight  hearing on

"What Can be Done to Reduce the Threats Posed by Computer Viruses and Worms to the Workings of Government"

August 29, 2001



Chairman Steve Horn
Opening Statement 

This hearing of the Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations will come to order.

The horrific events of September 11 were a wake-up call that all too clearly illustrates this nation's vulnerability to attack. We have known for a long time that airport security was lax, and we did nothing to fix the problem. Intruders took advantage of that vulnerability in ways that, for all of us, were unimaginable.

We must learn from this experience, but will we? We have known for several years that our government's critical computer systems are as vulnerable to attack as airport security. In 1997, the General Accounting Office placed the security of government computers on its government-wide high-risk list. In 1998, the Federal Bureau of Investigation formed its National Infrastructure Protection Center to gather information on computer threats and issue timely warnings about those threats. It is now 2001, and the government has made little progress in addressing computer security issues. Are we going to wait until these vital systems are compromised -- or worse?

During the crises in New York and Washington, we found that the nation's communication systems were not as strong as they needed to be. Cellular telephones stopped working. City leaders were unable to communicate with other officials in the immediate aftermath. In New York, broadcast television services were interrupted. But imagine the repercussions if attacks on the federal government's critical computers were equally successful. national defense, communications, transportation, public health and emergency response services across the nation could be crippled instantly.

In addition to the threat of physical assault, the nation's information technology systems are already under cyber-assault. Following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the "Nimda" worm attacked computer systems around the world. "Nimda" shut down banks in Japan, multinational corporations, and some government systems in the United States, such as Fairfax County. On Monday, a new worm was unleashed on computer systems. This worm is capable of wiping out a computer's basic system files. These attacks are increasing in intensity, sophistication and potential damage. Is the nation ready for this type of terrorism? Will its basic communications and computer infrastructure withstand a major assault?

Today, we want to examine these critical issues. We welcome our witnesses who will discuss these computer threats and the measures that must be taken to protect this nation -- its economy, its states, cities and institutions of higher learning.



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