Who Polices the Internet for Viruses?

The Code Red worm is expected to infect more than 250,000 computer systems by the end of the day. What government agency monitors the Internet for attacks like Code Red, and why?

The federal National Infrastructure Protection Center coordinates computer crime investigations in the United States by collecting information from law enforcement agencies, the military, the private sector, and state and local governments. The NIPC’s mission to deter, detect, and investigate malicious acts that threaten the Internet also extends to rest of the nation’s “critical infrastructure,” which includes the telecommunications grid, the electrical power system, the banking and finance system, oil and gas distribution, government operations, transportation systems, and water systems. The NIPC’s mission was laid out in a presidential directive issued by President Clinton in 1998.

The NIPC is housed in the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters, and it operates under the authority of the attorney general. It divides Internet attacks into three categories: unstructured threats (from individuals and hackers), structured threats (from organized crime or terrorists), and national security threats (from foreign governments). Once the NIPC has determined the source and scope of an attack, it coordinates the response with national security agencies, law enforcement, or the private sector.

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Explainer thanks FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman and the NIPC Web site.