White House aide pushes private government net
- By John K. Waters
[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
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached