The Software Business Alliance, the software and Internet industry trade association that includes Microsoft and Intel, says the U.S. government is at risk for a major cyber attack in the next year, but agencies are not adequately prepared to defend themselves.

Rolling out a survey of information technology professionals, the BSA said 49 percent of IT professionals think it is likely the government will be hit by a major cyber attack in the next 12 months, with a third of those saying it is extremely likely. The survey of 395 information technology professionals was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs between June 5-7 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

"It's sobering that IT professionals predict a major cyber attack against the United States in the next 12 months," said Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the BSA. "Even more alarming, nine out of 10 IT professionals believe that the threat of a major cyber attack is the same or worse since September 11," said Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based BSA.

Bill Conner, president, chairman and CEO of Entrust , joined Holleyman in releasing the study on behalf of BSA's 19 member companies.

"We are at war, but the U.S. government has yet to move at war speed to protect against cyber attacks," Conner said. "Unlike Y2K, where industry and government worked together to ward off a one-time problem, the risk of a major cyber attack will be a persistent threat. Just as we continue to upgrade our military offensive, the same diligence is needed to protect the nation's critical infrastructure. We must immediately establish true private-public sector partnerships to deploy both defensive and offensive Internet security technologies to ensure national cyber security."

One of the key findings of the survey was the belief of IT professionals that the government needs to devote more time and resources to cyber security -- even more than it did for Y2K. This is a theme the BSA has been pushing for months in meetings with senior White House officials. BSA member company CEOs -- during the group's Global Technology Summit in December and again a few weeks ago at a White House meeting -- have reiterated their commitment to help the administration establish a more concerted cyber security initiative.

"There is a true sense of urgency here. It is critical that the Bush Administration and Congress move quickly on their commitments -- both financial and philosophical -- to secure this nation and its critical infrastructure," Holleyman said. "And as an industry that is developing the systems necessary to secure our country's complex information networks from terrorists and other attackers, we stand ready to help them follow through on those commitments to secure the resources and develop policies that promote a safe and legal online world."

Other highlights of the BSA Cyber Security Survey include:

  • Of those IT professionals who are responsible for their company's computer and Internet security, 59 percent think a major attack against the government is likely in the next year;
  • 72 percent of IT professionals say there is a gap between the threat of a major cyber attack against the government and the government's preparedness;
  • IT professionals, by a margin of 10-to-1, are more likely to say the U.S. government security measures are not at all adequate than extremely adequate;
  • Only one in four IT professionals say the government has built adequate security measures into its e-government initiatives, while one in three say the security measures are inadequate;
  • 86 percent of IT professionals agree that as much or more time and resources should be invested to protect against cyber attacks than was devoted to Y2K; and
  • 96 percent of IT professionals say the government needs to employ technologies like encryption to secure its sensitive data so hackers will not be able to access it even if they break into the government's computer systems.
  • "This survey accentuates the importance of network security and availability of solutions in the fortification of our homeland defense," said Gene Hodges, president of Network Associates, Inc. "We remain committed to helping secure our critical infrastructure through industry and government cooperation."