U.S. cyberspace post creates buzz

Awareness of Canadian cyberspace security issues should be less like the hum of elevator music and more like the blast of a teenager’s stereo, says the president of a national information technology lobby group.

Gaylen Duncan, president of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) said the White House’s recent announcement that U.S. National Security Council member Richard Clark would become the presidential adviser for cyberspace security brings the U.S. up to speed on cybersecurity awareness. Now, he said, Canada needs to catch up.

“I think it (the new American post) is going to spend some time working out the mandate, but at least the debate is engaged in the States, but here it is just humming in the background; it is not engaged,” he said. “It is like background music and we want to get it more like my son’s music from Napster.”

Duncan added that he was pleased last February when Prime Minister Jean Chretien created the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness and appointed Margaret Purdy to associate deputy minister of national defense, making this office one of her prime duties.

“It is still working out what its mandate is,” he said. “It may be a bit late off the starting gate, but at least we are headed down the right road. I think what we need to do is get the right kinds of people around the table to get talking.”

As President George Bush’s special adviser for cyberspace security, Clarke is directed to help mesh ongoing critical infrastructure protection efforts in various government agencies and the private sector. In the case of disruption, he will orchestrate efforts to restore systems.

Max London, a spokesperson at the office of critical infrastructure protection and emergency preparedness in Ottawa, said Canada’s plan is a little different structurally than the United States, but that it makes sense.

“Canada is the only country in the world that has combined the cyber-protection issue with a more traditional emergency management function,” London said. He explained that the combination of the two was logical because many of the government’s necessary systems and networks are closely tied to services that protect the health, safety and well being of citizens such as communications, transportation and services like utilities and banking.

London agreed that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 changed the world and security policies forever.

“We did step up our monitoring of critical monitoring across the board and we have been working with other departments and the provinces,” he said. “We will continue to provide updates on threat information as we get them. At this point, we say that we can’t be complacent. It makes sense to be vigilant.”