Oregon IT Partners On Security Network

State's vendors, agencies unite to build model for homeland security initiatives

WASHINGTON—A public/private alliance of more than 60 technology vendors and government agencies in Oregon last week took the first step on a long road to building a statewide secure network that could be replicated nationwide to support antiterrorism and homeland security efforts.

Known as the Regional Alliance for Information and Network Security (RAINS), the alliance on Nov. 13 sponsored a homeland technology expo in Washington, where representatives unveiled the details behind what they are calling the Oregon Trial of Emergency and Security Technology, or O-Test. The program is designed to improve cybersecurity for critical infrastructures and create a secure network for statewide first responders to use in the event of a terrorist attack.

"We've got a very strong critical mass of high-tech companies in Oregon to pilot the integration work," said Charlie Kawasaki, president of Portland-based RuleSpace Inc. and a RAINS board member. However, the group's appearance in Washington was to raise awareness and gauge the interest of the White House and Congress in helping to fund what many see as a model that could be replicated throughout the country to form a nationwide homeland defense system.

"We're operating on fumes right now," said Kawasaki, adding that all of the development work that has gone into O-Test to this point has been on a voluntary basis. The alliance is looking to raise at least $6.5 million "to take baby steps and get validation of the system in the field," Kawasaki said.

The effort to form RAINS started more than a year ago. It was born out of a desire to both "make a genuine contribution to homeland security and cybersecurity" and to leverage the pressing needs of homeland security to improve the lagging economy in Oregon, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, said Charles Jennings, CEO of Swan Island Networks Inc. and chairman of RAINS.

Two potential sources of funding for the O-Test include the Cyber Security Research and Development Act, passed last week and sent to the president for signature; and the homeland security bill, which would form the Department of Homeland Security. The R&D bill calls for $903 million to fund cybersecurity research centers, undergraduate program grants, community college grants and fellowships.

Potential Holdups

Wyatt Starnes, CEO of Tripwire Inc. and chairman of the Steering Committee for RAINS, said funding and politics, not technology R&D, are the major impediments to rolling out a statewide or a nationwide system for homeland security. "I think it's getting legs and has a significant chance of making a difference," said Starnes.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a longtime proponent of tapping into the IT expertise of the private sector for the government's security needs, said the Senate won't adjourn this year without passing a homeland security bill. But that's just the beginning of the challenges for efforts like RAINS, he acknowledged.

"The federal government is making it too difficult for innovators to get new ideas assessed by the federal government," said Wyden, responding to industry concerns that the government's procurement process is hindering the homeland security effort. "We badly need a process to streamline getting new ideas into the federal bloodstream," said Wyden, calling the current IT certification process "obsolete."

"You're not going to win the war on terror from Washington," he said. "At the end of the day, it's about whether the federal government is going to be a smarter partner."

Wyden said he will attempt to change the procurement process through the homeland security bill now before the Senate.


The O-Test Eight

American Technology Group Inc.: PEN 2002 software for secure wireless or landline dial-up between two or more PCs

Digimarc Corp.: Digital watermarking technologies

Eid Access Inc.: Vendor compliance verification, identity authentication and background vulnerability analysis

Fiber SenSys Inc.: Fiber-optic intrusion detection and motion detection and analysis

iMove Inc.: Spherical video imaging system for 360-degree surveillance

Qsent Inc.: Real-time integration of business and government contact information for disaster or emergency response

Tripwire Inc.: Data integrity assurance software for end-to-end infrastructure monitoring

WireX Communications Inc.: Immunix secured Linux


Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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