Last week, Web users saw how vulnerable the Internet can be when hackers flooded Internet connections with fake traffic on some of the nation's largest Web sites including Yahoo!, eBay and CNN.com. Wednesday night, a major agency of the U.S. government experienced similar Internet headaches those businesses encountered.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shut down its Internet connection, www.epa.gov, to its computer systems in order to protect sensitive and confidential information on those systems.
The shut down came in response to House Commerce Chairman Rep. Tom Bliley's, R-Va., request that EPA close its web server after he raised concerns that the agency did not have adequate security to protect sensitive data contained within the site.
Bliley called for the immediate shut down of the connection because investigators from the General Accounting Office easily penetrated sensitive areas of EPA's main computer system from the Internet.
In a briefing yesterday, Bliley said that he wants the connection to remain down until the agency establishes adequate security.
"We're not talking only about data worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but trade secrets and sensitive data that could put our national and economic security at risk," said Bliley.
Late Wednesday, EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner agreed toBliley's request and shut down EPA's publicly accessible Web site.
EPA spokeswoman Ellen Kramer said computer security experts told EPA that the recent attention the agency was receiving regarding the weakness of its site, made EPA a likely target to hackers.
Kramer said additional security measures for the site were being developed and would shortly be in place.
EPA's Web site contains a vast array of public data from statistics on air pollution to the amount of toxic chemicals a company releases into a community and pollution levels in lakes and streams that is publicly available.
Although no definite date was given, EPA plans to restore full power to its site shortly following security upgrades.