D.C. Weathers E-Mail Virus
May. 05, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton today declared the federal government ``very fortunate'' to have weathered the e-mail ``ILOVEYOU'' virus, and said the virus underscored a pressing need for greater protection against cyber-attacks in the private sector.
Before departing for a Democratic retreat in Pennsylvania, Clinton said the rapid spread of the virus showed how vulnerable the nation was to ``disruptive forces'' that seek to exploit the new interdependence that the Internet generates.
``We've been very fortunate. The government has fared well here,'' Clinton said. ``But it says that we've got a lot more work to do to protect all these systems in the private sector. The government has to keep working too.''
Lawmakers pushing for legislation to deter cyber-attacks got plenty of evidence to support their efforts after the virus swept through the nation's capital and hampered work in government offices.
The virus that haunted European parliamentary houses earlier Thursday also left its mark in Washington, where agencies and congressional officials sought to stem its impact by warning workers, closing down internal systems and installing fixes onto computers.
``I think the government has responded quite quickly,'' said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart. Cyber-security experts had to deal with a few isolated incidents at the White House, but Lockhart said operations were not affected.
At 6:30 a.m. Thursday, State Department officials found the virus in many of their servers and immediately stopped the flow of attachments coming in over unclassified systems with access to the Internet.
``We shut off our connection with the outside world,'' said department spokesman Richard Boucher.
Two hours later, the department sent out a cable to all its embassies overseas to warn them. Boucher said the virus did not get into the department's classified systems.
The CIA also said its classified systems were not impacted. Toward the end of the workday, spokeswoman Anya Guilsher said the problem was considered ``a low threat.''
The Army and the Navy shut down their e-mail systems temporarily because of the virus, and the Pentagon was working with commercial virus protection companies to find a fix, said spokesman Kenneth Bacon.
The IRS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and several internal agencies under the Health and Human Services Department turned off their mail servers during the course of the day.
Many departments _ including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Energy Department and Interior Department _ similarly reported that the virus had crept into their systems, but did not disrupt normal business.
At the World Bank, technical staff were alerted early of the problem and by 9 a.m. had devised a software solution. Later, new anti-viral defenses were installed in the system.
In congressional offices, some workers received advance warning via voice mail not to open their contaminated inboxes.
Becky Campoverde, communications director for the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said she and other federal workers found the phone and fax to be indispensable, with mass e-mail capabilities temporarily suspended.
Lawmakers, who saw their own operations hampered by the virus, renewed their calls for legislation aimed at thwarting crime on the Internet. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, promoted their bill that would enhance existing criminal laws to prosecute cyber-attacks.
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., touted a measure he introduced to authorize $25 million in grants so that local authorities could warn people by phone, fax or TV of a virus epidemic.