Mother Nature's storms postpone DHS' Cyber Storm

The Homeland Security Department's Cyber Storm exercise, consisting of a virtual attack on the nation, has been pushed back from November to February 2006 because of resource demands on the federal government and infrastructure damage caused by the recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region, the department and other sources said.

DHS spokeswoman Michelle Petrovich confirmed that the Cyber Storm exercise had been pushed forward from next month to February. "It makes sense to work on real-time occurrences such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita [before carrying out the exercises]," she said.

"It would be fair to say that the storms required a reallocation of resources, [but] all efforts to move forward with Cyber Storm are continuing," Petrovich added.

Terry Benzel, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California whose DETER Internet test bed project is scheduled to play a key role in Cyber Storm, said the electric utility industry had requested the delay so that the companies could repair their shredded networks. Electric utility industry sources were not immediately available to verify Benzel's statement.

Cyber Storm is designed to combine a virtual attack on the financial sector with a virtual assault on the power grid, as well as a simulated array of attacks on physical assets.

Acting Cybersecurity Division director Andy Purdy had described Cyber Storm as an interagency project that would involve participation by various critical infrastructure owners in the private sector.

Wilson P. Dizard III is a senior writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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