Tech Executives Want a National Security Czar and Protection Plan

TUCSON, Ariz. — 02/02/2000 — A new CIO KnowPulse(SM) poll, conducted by IDG 's CIO magazine, reveals 62% of the nation's leading technology and business executives believe President Clinton should appoint a security czar (similar to John Koskinen's role as Y2K czar) to serve as a watchdog on technology-related national security. The poll of 191 chief information officers (CIOs)– the most technology-savvy individuals in the world — was deployed January 31, 2000, at The CIO Enterprise Value Retreat.

While only eighteen percent (18%) of respondents have been victimized by external computer crime, an overwhelming 85% support Clinton's $2 billion plan to combat cyber-terrorism and make the government's computer systems less vulnerable to attack. According to Lew McCreary, Editorial Director of CIO Communications, Inc., "In light of the recent crash of a U.S. intelligence computer system, it's no surprise that CIOs are concerned about the security of both corporate and government systems. In fact, a U.S. House subcommittee on technology recently announced computer security as its next major focus."

CIOs on Hackers

In protecting their companies' information technology (IT) infrastructure, CIOs are most concerned about hackers (46%), followed by employees (40%), customers (7%) and terrorists (3%). Despite a significant concern over employees breaking into their organizations' systems, a surprising one-third (31%) of CIOs say they would hire notorious, convicted hacker, Kevin Mitnick, once his three-year parole has passed. Charged with causing millions of dollars of damage by hacking into the computer systems of Motorola, Novell, Nokia, Sun Microsystems and others, Mitnick was recently released from prison and ordered to stay away from all devices that would give him access to the Internet (i.e., computers, modems, cell phones) for three years. In response to this unique ruling, the majority of CIOs (56%) say Mitnick's punishment is fitting (49% say fitting, but unenforceable), with one-third (34%) maintaining that the penalty is too soft. Only six percent (6%) believe it is too harsh.

CIOs on New Initiatives Post-Y2K

Now that preparation for the Y2K computer system rollover is behind them, the majority (65%) of CIOs are focusing their energy on electronic commerce initiatives. Other CIOs name information systems (IS) staffing (8%), security (6%), telecommunications (5%) and intellectual property (5%) as their top management tech priorities.

While less than 10% of respondents cited IS staffing as their top tech issue, poll results show that the high tech staffing crisis remains a major concern, with nearly eighty-percent (77%) of respondents admitting they are still struggling to fill open technology positions. "As CIOs strive to put Y2K behind them and move on to projects that were temporarily put on hold, they remain plagued by the high tech staffing crisis and the ongoing struggle to find quality workers," says McCreary.

CIOs on Government's Technology Focus

CIOs are divided in their support of President Clinton's proposal for the U.S. to spend up to $100 million to narrow the "digital divide" between those who have computers and Internet access and those who do not. Just over half (52%) of CIOs support Clinton's plan, while 43% do not and five percent (5%) remain unsure.

In other government-related technology issues, one-third (33%) of CIOs believe privacy should be the first technology issue that the 107th U.S. Congress tends to in 2000. Critical infrastructure protection (13%), encryption (10%), Internet taxation (9%) and telecommunications (9%) follow privacy on CIOs' list of technology priorities for Congress this year.

CIOs on Recent Mega Merger The recent merger between AOL and Time Warner does not concern CIOs. An overwhelming 86% of respondents do not believe the union of AOL and Time Warner will lead to a monopoly in the technology communications industry.

CIOs on Recent OSHA Announcement

CIOs were unprepared for OSHA's (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recent suggestion that employers take responsibility for the safety and health of their work-at-home charges. Less than ten percent (9%) of respondents have set safety guidelines for employees who work at home, with 80% having none and eleven percent (11%) unsure if their companies have set guidelines or not. McCreary says, "The fact that even nine percent (9%) are already setting guidelines for work-at-home employees supports a small but significant trend in telecommuting and corporate America's willingness to provide employees with greater work flexibility."

CIOs on Leap Day 2000

In response to speculation that leap day 2000 (February 29, 2000) might create technology glitches, all (100%) respondents say they expect no major impact on technology systems. Approximately one-third (36%) predict minor problems, with 60% expecting nothing and five percent (5%) feeling unsure of the potential impact. "The remarkable success of the Y2K date rollover has put CIOs at ease and allayed fears about other potential date-related tech problems," says McCreary.

CIOs on Election 2000

When asked which presidential candidate is best suited to lead the U.S. during the most technology-enlightened era in history, almost one quarter (24%) name Al Gore (D-TN) their choice, followed by George W. Bush (R-TX) with sixteen percent (16%), Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes (R-NJ) with twelve percent (12%) and John S. McCain (R-AZ) with nine percent (9%). However, a plurality (31%) of CIOs say all of the presidential candidates lack tech-knowledge and that none of them are aptly suited for technology leadership. "While Congress and presidential candidates are making strides in the right direction, they have yet to match … .or impress … .the CIO with their tech-expertise," says Gary Beach, Publisher of CIO magazine. "They're going to have to work harder at conveying their technology concerns and focus to this influential audience."

Ironically, when asked for whom they would vote if the presidential election were held today, these same executives made decidedly different choices. Forty-two (42%) of respondents say they would vote for Bush, followed by endorsements for McCain (21%), Gore (13%), William W. "Bill" Bradley (D-NJ) (12%), Forbes (5%) and Alan L. Keyes (R-MD) (2%).

Poll Results:

1.) Do you think President Clinton should appoint a computer security czar (similar to John Koskinen's role as a "Y2K czar") to serve as a watchdog on IT-related national security issues?

62% Yes

30% No

8% Unsure

2.) President Clinton is proposing a $2 billion plan to combat cyber- terrorism and make the government's computer systems less vulnerable to attack. Do you think this is:*

41% A good idea and a wise investment

44% A good idea, but a high price tag

11% A lousy idea and a waste of money

5% Unsure

3.) The Computer Security Institute estimates more than 60 percent of companies have experienced financial losses due to cyber crime. Has your company been victimized by external computer crime?

18% Yes

61% No

21% Unsure

4.) In protecting your company's IT infrastructure, who are you most concerned about (select one)?

46% Hackers

40% Employees

7% Customers

3% Terrorists

4% Other

5.) Notorious hacker Kevin Mitnick was accused of causing costly damage when he hacked into computers at Motorola, Novell, Nokia, Sun Microsystems and the University of Southern California. He was recently released from prison and ordered to stay away from all electronic devices that access the Internet for three years. In your opinion, this ruling is:

49% Fitting punishment, but unenforceable

34% Too easy a punishment

7% Fitting punishment and enforceable

6% Too harsh a punishment

4% Don't know

6.) After his three year parole, would you hire Kevin Mitnick (i.e., to advise on security preparedness, test systems, etc.)?