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White House aide pushes private government net

[FEBRUARY 27, 2002] - Richard A. Clarke, White House Special Advisor for Cyber Security, plugged his proposal for the creation of Govnet, a private network exclusively for sensitive government computers at the annual RSA Security Conference held last week in San Jose, Calif. The proposed network would utilize standard Internet protocols, but would not be connected in any way to other public or private networks. It would be open only to authorized users; no anonymous users would be allowed on the network. And it would carry data, voice-over-IP and possibly video.

Clarke acknowledged that segregated WANs are nothing new. Many already exist in the public and private sectors. "What we discovered is that the idea of having a separate air-gapped network... is in fact an old idea," said Clarke. "There are already such networks out there."

The Govnet proposal has drawn criticism from some security experts, who argue that it would become a special target of hackers and crackers, and it would signal a kind of government abandonment of the Internet. Clarke defended the Govnet proposal, saying that, although no network could claim to be perfectly secure, isolated key government functions from the public network was a good idea.

"I don't know where it was ever written that everything has to be connected to everything else," he said.

Billed as the world's largest gathering of computer security experts, the RSA conference drew hundreds of vendors, who gathered to show off the latest and greatest computer security solutions. Industry watchers are expecting the market for cyber security to grow rapidly over the next few years.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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