Clinton Pledges Action To Raise Net Security

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton has pledged to work with high-tech companies to fight hackers and improve computer security, while avoiding actions that could destroy the openness of the Internet.

"We know that we have to keep cyberspace open and free," Clinton told a group of high-tech executives and computer security experts in the Cabinet Room. "We have to make, at the same time, computer networks more secure and resilient, and we have to do more to protect privacy and civil liberties," he said.

The summit occurred as the Federal Bureau of Investigation served a search warrant Tuesday in Portland, Oregon, and seized a computer that had been used in recent attacks, people familiar with the probe said.

The dragnet to find the computer vandals also spilled across the border with Canada: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is working with the FBI, which believes that one or more powerful server computers in Canada were used to launch the attacks. At least one potential subject may be based there, the RCMP's Technological Crimes Section said.

The FBI is in the process of contacting individuals with such Internet names as "coolio," "mafiaboy" and "nachoman," who have either claimed credit for the attacks in online chats or who are known for their hacking prowess.

Much of the White House meeting focused on publicizing initiatives that are already under way. Last month the president announced a $2 billion budget request for computer security, including the creation of a college program to give students in computer security tuition breaks in return for government service. Clinton announced that he would "jump start" that program right away with a $9 million supplemental item to the fiscal year 2000 budget.

The president also described funds for security research and the creation of a $50 million center to support research and technology development aimed at protecting computers and networks.

His audience was comprised largely of high-tech executives, and included security experts from academia, online civil liberties activists and "Mudge," a self-proclaimed "white-hat hacker" with computer security firm At Stake.

The group discussed methods of heading off hackers and of upgrading security, but spoke little of more policing for the online network that could violate privacy. "Solutions that we talked about did not involve growing governmental regulation or growing governmental power," presidential adviser John Podesta said. "We do not need to reduce privacy as we enhance security on the network - security and privacy go hand in hand."