By JOSEPH LOPEZ
President Clinton’s proposal to protect the nation’s computer systems against cyber-terrorism includes a new program that offers scholarships to students who study computer security.
On Friday Clinton said he would ask Congress for $91 million to combat cyber-terrorism. The National Plan for Information Systems Protection is part of a $2 billion proposal to defend the nation’s computer systems, according to a White House press release.
Clinton’s plan proposes $25 million to be provided for college scholarships for students who study computer security and to recruit from the information technology workforce.
“There has never been a time like this, in which we have the power to create knowledge and the power to create havoc, and both those powers rest in the same hands,” Clinton said.
According to the White House Briefing Room, students who accept scholarships to study computer security will be required to work for the government upon graduation. It is an “ROTC-like program,” the White House said.
John Higgins, a professor of Computer Science at BYU, said computer security used to be as easy as putting guards around the doors of a physical location. But computer security has become a substantial problem, he said.
“In my opinion, the government does this sort of thing very badly,” Higgins said.
Higgins said $25 million is a trivial amount of money and it won’t attract anyone that wasn’t already interested in computer security.
Jeff Pitman, 24, a senior from Vancouver, Wash., majoring in computer science, said he does not agree with Clinton’s proposal.
“I think it’s the government’s way to militarize something that they think is out of control,” he said. “Hacker groups may see it as an invitation to continue invading computer systems.”
William A. Barrett, former chair of the BYU computer science department, said, “I’m surprised that we haven’t seen more attempts to invade security … we ought to think hard about security.”