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Obama declares digital infrastructure strategic national asset

world Updated: May 30, 2009 16:47 IST

Observing that terrorists are using cyber space and modern means of communication in carrying out attacks, including in the case of Mumbai carnage, President Barack Obama has announced measures to strengthen cyber security in the US.

Obama said the US has failed to adequately protect the security of its computer networks and announced that the digital infrastructure would now be considered and treated as a strategic national asset.

"Protecting this infrastructure will be a national security priority. We will ensure that these networks are secure, trustworthy and resilient," Obama said yesterday.

"We will deter, prevent, detect and defend against attacks, and recover quickly from any disruptions or damage," he said.

The announcement comes following the conclusion of a 60-day review of US' cyber security ordered by Obama in February.

"Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have spoken of their desire to unleash a cyber attack on our country, attacks that are harder to detect and harder to defend against," he said.

"The terrorists that sowed so much death and destruction in Mumbai relied not only on guns and grenades, but also on GPS and phones using voice over the Internet," Obama said.

"It is now clear this cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. It's also clear that we're not as prepared as we should be, as a government or as a country," Obama said.

He announced a series of measures to strengthen cyber security so that it is not vulnerable to terrorists or anyone who want to disrupt this crucial network, which has now become the country's lifeline.

"Cyberspace is real, and so are the risks that come with it. It's the great irony of our Information Age -- the very technologies that empower us to create and to build also empower those who would disrupt and destroy," Obama said.

According to one survey, in the past two years alone, cybercrime has cost Americans more than USD 8 billion, he said and added that America's defense and military networks are constantly under attack.

In today's world, acts of terror could come not only from a few extremists in suicide vests, but from a few keystrokes on the computer -- a weapon of mass disruption.

Last year, Obama said the world had a glimpse of the future face of war. As Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, cyber attacks crippled Georgian government websites.

Obama announced creation of a Office of Cyber security Coordinator at White House, which would be specifically dedicated to safeguarding the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.

Among the key aspect of Obama's new strategy include developing a new comprehensive strategy to secure America's information and communications networks and working with all the key players.

It will also ensure an organised and unified response to future cyber incidents; strengthen the public-private partnerships; invest in the cutting-edge research and development necessary for the innovation and discovery needed to meet the digital challenges; and begin a national campaign to promote cyber security awareness and digital literacy.

However, Obama asserted that cyber security will not include monitoring private-sector networks or Internet traffic.

"We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to net neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be -- open and free," he said.

"Now our virtual world is going viral. We've only just begun to explore the next generation of technologies that will transform our lives in ways we can't even begin to imagine. So a new world awaits -- a world of greater security and greater potential prosperity -- if we reach for it, if we lead," Obama said.