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1998-01-03 17:46:22


Critical Infrastructure: A Year 2000 Problem, Says Commission's FAQ



The President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection was set up in 1997 to study how to defend eight society-sustaining infrastructures from breakdown.

Officially, these are vulnerable to terrorist attack. But on the Commission's Web site, there is a FAQ list (frequently asked questions). On this list, toward the bottom, the y2k issue is dealt with.

Terrorists are a maybe; y2k is sure. A President can set up a commission to protect the nation against terrorists. This creates no panic. What if he were to set up a commission to protect the same critical infrastructures from the Millennium Bug? Panic would be far more likely.

* * * * * * *

The Commission has identified eight critical infrastructures for review: telecommunications, transportation, electric power, oil and gas (delivery and storage), banking and finance, water, emergency services, and continuity of government services. During the course of our review, the Commission may discover other areas to add to that list.. . .

Threats to these infrastructures fall into two categories: physical threats to tangible property ("physical threats"), and threats of electronic, radio-frequency, or computer-based attacks on the information or communications components that control critical infrastructures ("cyber threats").

Questions on Year 2000 Issues

Q: What is the Year 2000 issue as understood by the PCCIP?

A: In the early years of computers, data storage space was at a premium, and to save space the date was written as a two-digit code. Many of the older computer systems which remain in use today still have the two-digit date code. The problem arises when an older computer system tries to use the year 2000 date because it thinks the date is 1900, not 2000. This misreading can potentially cause serious problems, the extent and scope of which are not fully understood.

Q: Is the PCCIP looking at the Year 2000 issue?

A: Yes. As a part of its overall research on the vulnerabilities of America's infrastructures, the Commission is taking a look at the problem that may arise from the inability of some computers and other automated systems to properly process dates beyond December 31, 1999.

Q: Does the Commission have the ability to classify its work?

A: Yes, in February 1997 the Chairman of the PCCIP was granted original classification authority by the President of the United States. This grant of authority does not amend Executive Order 13010. It is a Presidential grant of authority in accordance with the provisions of Executive Order 12958 and is separate and distinct from Executive Order 13010.


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