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Reno announces new center to combat cyber-crime

hacked In this story: February 28, 1998
Web posted at: 12:40 a.m. EST (0540 GMT)

LIVERMORE, California (CNN) -- U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno announced plans Friday for a new FBI crime center to combat the threat of cyber-attack.

"The attack can come from anywhere in the world," Reno said. "You can sit in a kitchen in St. Petersburg, Russia, and steal money from a bank in New York."

"Our systems are more vulnerable than ever to attack because of our unprecedented reliance on technology," she said at a speech a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.

Janet Reno talks about computer criminals
icon 230 K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Reno said the nation's increased reliance on computers has made security networks, financial institutions and power grids more vulnerable to such attacks.

The new National Infrastructure Protection Center will have links to other sensitive federal government departments such as Defense and State, as well as local police agencies.

She said it will also be linked with private computer security centers, such as those run on university campuses, and will coordinate with other nations.

Without such cooperation, "the nation will be at peril," Reno said.

Report cites increased danger

The NIPC was established after a national report issued last October which highlighted the growing dangers posed by high-tech sabotage and cyber-attack to industries such as banking, finance, communications, information technology, and energy.

vxtreme CNN's Rusty Dornin reports

The FBI now is investigating a case that is an example of high-tech crime

Agents raided two homes in Cloverdale, California, north of San Francisco Wednesday looking for clues to a computer hacking case that appeared to relate to a string of attacks on U.S. military computer systems this month.

Two teen-age boys are suspected of having a hand in the attacks, which officials have called "the most organized and systematic attack the Pentagon has seen to date."

One important role for the center, Reno said, will be to distinguish genuine threats to national security from relatively harmless attacks by juvenile hackers, such as apparently occurred in the Pentagon case.

Reno played down the Big Brother aspects of an Internet police force.

"We must not and we will not sacrifice any constitutional protections," the attorney general said.

Reno seeking $64 million

David Wagner   

To fund the new center, Reno will ask for $64 million next year to staff the center with 125 people, including six investigative squads and more federal prosecutors specializing in cyber-crime.

David Wagner, a computer security researcher who made headlines by breaking into Netscape's Web site two and a half years ago, said: "I don't think it will keep hackers away. But maybe we can incrementally improve our system if we have some extra help from this extra law enforcement office."

One expert said that without strong prevention measures like the high-tech center, an electronic Pearl Harbor is inevitable.

Correspondent Rusty Dornin and Reuters contributed to this report.


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