The keys to a more secure future

Tuesday, 2 July 2002, 1:05 PM EST

Sometime in July, a team of hackers will try to break into the computer networks that run key utilities around the U.S. The strikes won't come from Islamic cyberterrorists -- who in recent days have been rumored to be planning such attacks themselves -- but rather from friendly teams of security analysts the Electric Power Research Institute has hired to find chinks in the armor of, among other facilities, nuclear power plants.

EPRI's "Red Teams," as they're called, are just one element in an urgent campaign to shore up the security of U.S. infrastructure so as to safeguard the homeland from terrorist attacks - both virtual and physical.

Likewise, the Federal Aviation Administration has begun using friendly hackers to test its networks after a series of frightening breaches. Then there's the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the body that holds sway over nuclear power plants and materials. In April, the NRC created a rapid-response team to counter terrorist attacks, something it can now afford, thanks to a $35 million emergency bump in its budget.

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