Opening Statement of Chairwoman Constance A. Morella
Subcommittee on Technology
Committee on Science
U.S. House of Representatives
February 11, 1997
As the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Technology for the Committee on Science, I take great pride in knowing that our nation currently leads the world in the creation and sale of innovative new technology tools and products. As Congresswoman for Maryland's technology corridor, I know first hand from speaking with hard working individuals who are blazing a path in the frontier of electronic commerce that this nation's competitive advantage flows from our innovative and hard working citizens--its entrepreneurs who are willing to take a risk and create products which one day will benefit all of us in our daily lives.
I am personally committed to taking a very active role in seeing that as we enter the twenty-first century this country continues to foster development and encourage innovative new ideas. Electronic commerce, and in fact all of electronic communication, is the forum in which these battles will be fought and won. I believe that this Committee can, will, and should, play an active role in helping to pave the way towards continued excellence in the field of technology. Everyone agrees that standards in such areas as certifying authorities, digital signatures, interoperability and open yet secure systems which the individual can trust are a must.
Confidentiality, Integrity, Authenticity, Authorization, Accountability. These are computer security terms you may not yet be familiar with, but because modern life is powered by computing, conceptual familiarity with these issues is no longer an option, it is a necessity.
Even more fundamental to our discussion today is the theme of "trust." Consumers and everyday citizens must be able to trust that their business and personal interactions can flow smoothly across different networks, that the parties with whom they are doing business are who they say they are, and that their communication remains secure and private.
In today's briefing we will explore one of the most vital links in this chain - Secure Communications. Increasingly, every aspect of our private lives and our business relationships pass over electronic networks and reside in electronic files.
From the security of cellular phone conversations to the privacy and integrity of hospital and doctors' records as well as all other forms of proprietary business information, we are vulnerable. This includes the electronic systems of our government on which lives depend, such as those of the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Weather Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Bureau Investigation.
Experts in computer security have long been aware of the immensity of this challenge, but they cannot be expected to do it all. As concerned citizens and responsible business men and women, we must make educating ourselves a high priority.
Look at the cover article of this month's FORTUNE magazine; it argues that the financial losses from computer crime may reach as high as $10 billion dollars a year. Thinking broadly, the financial cost of these break-ins may not be the most important part of the equation; trade secrets may be stolen, careers damaged, the wider economy undermined -- in short, break-ins cause a loss of trust.
Of course such vulnerabilities are more than overshadowed by the countless benefits of computerization. The best education and medical care become even more accessible, commuting is made easier, and our family lives are enriched daily by new breakthroughs in technology. The scope of all these tradeoffs between staggering benefits and real risks makes it imperative that we understand both. In today’s briefing our panelists will tackle some of the technological vulnerabilities which underlie this new economy so that we may work towards improving the standard of our operations.
In this briefing, experts will discuss these ideas as well as the underlying issue of whether or not users can "trust the system." What needs to be done so that everyday people may trust that their communications will not be compromised and that they are reaching their intended recipient. Both a vibrant marketplace and a free society will depend on getting the answers right. If we are to set high standards on the quality, security and interoperability of all systems which facilitate electronic commerce, there is no time to lose.
Thomas Paine, writing more than two hundred years ago, said that "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance." This statement may be even more true in today’s digital society than it was at the founding of our great nation.
It is therefore timely and important to be dispassionate in 1)identifying overall risks; 2) analyzing those "alert mechanisms" which will provide early warning of abuses; 3) addressing what additional measures can be taken to protect valued information; 4) insuring that there are technological means for making all the components of this system interoperable; 5) highlighting the different individual, corporate, and government viewpoints on these matters, and 6) making all facts accessible so that we may all benefit from the knowledge.
I am confident that today’s briefing will address these six key points.