The Staffs investigation has focused on threats to the National Information Infrastructure (the "NII") and the potential impact of such threats on the United States infrastructure as a whole. In examining this issue the Staff adopted certain widely accepted definitions. The NII refers to that system of advanced computer systems, databases, and telecommunications networks throughout the United States that make electronic information widely available and accessible.1 This includes the Internet, the
1 This is the definition used by the National Information Infrastructure Security Issues Forum. The Forum is a part of the Information Infrastructure Task Force which was formed by Vice President Gore to articulate and implement the Administration's vision for the NII. A glossary of definitions related to this Report is appended as Appendix A
public switched network, and cable, wireless, and satellite communications. The National Information Infrastructure is merely a subset of what has become known as the Global Information Infrastructure (the "GII").
References to the United States infrastructure includes those systems and facilities comprising identifiable institutions and industries that provide a continual flow of goods and services essential to the defense and economic security of the United States, the functioning of government at all levels, and the well-being of society as a whole.2 This includes telecommunications, energy, medical, transportation, and financial systems, as well as government operations and national defense.
Our society is extremely dependent on both the NII and the GII at almost every level of daily life -- individual, commercial and governmental. Consider the following:
2 This is the definition used by the Critical Infrastructure Working Group (the "CIWG"), chaired by Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. The CIWG was tasked under Presidential Decision Direction 39 with identifying and assessing threats against the critical national infrastructure and proposing both interim and long-term options for preventing and responding to such threats.
In short, the United States infrastructure has increasingly come to rest on the pillars of the national and global information infrastructures. Should these pillars be weakened or seriously shaken, many of the critical functions of our society could come crashing down or experience significant damage.
As dependent as society is today on the information infrastructure, that dependence will only grow in the years to come. For example, the electronic exchange
3 The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based system utilizing ground transmitters and orbiting satellites to triangulate locations with pinpoint accuracy.
of messages ("e-mail") is becoming so common that it is challenging other forms of communication, including the facsimile, the telex, and even the postal service. The following charts illustrate the growth of what has become known as e-mail:
Electronic mailboxes 1993 total: 46.3 m
Rest of World: 6%
The growth of electronic communications is spurred by the ever-increasing speed with which data can be transferred. The speed with which modems can transfer data has changed transmission time significantly. In 1980, a 300 bps (bits per second) modem required 160 minutes to transmit a book of approximately 200 pages; last year a commercially available 28.8 Kbps took less than two minutes to transfer the same book; today's 45 mbps modem speed provides for transmission of the same book over the Internet in .06 of a second. In just a decade, the speed has increased 160,000 times.
This, in turn, has led to a phenomenal growth of the Internet, one of the crucial elements of the information infrastructure. In 1969, the forerunner of the Internet started with just four major systems on what was essentially a single network. Today there are approximately 9.5 million hosts or major computer networks or systems. By the year 2000, the number of hosts is expected to reach 100,000,000.
This increased connectivity, and the enhanced communications that come with it, will no doubt increase the efficiency of the flow of goods, services, and ideas within our society. At the same time, however, this very same connectivity will also increase the vulnerability of our society to new forms of attack.