Washington Some of the biggest names in cyberspace IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, and Oracle are teaming up with the government to create a private-public dragnet to catch hackers before they cause costly damage to Internet sites.
The not-for-profit partnership, announced Tuesday and including 19 top high-tech firms, will coordinate to share information among each other and with the government and respond to computer threats.
Called the Information Sharing and Analysis Center for Information Technology, or IT-ISAC, the group will force companies that usually are fiercely competitive to work together.
"This initiative is done regardless of party or corporate logo," said Howard Schmidt, chief security officer at Microsoft Corp.
Faced with constant reports of security breaches where credit card numbers and computer software source codes are stolen by thieves, extortionists or just bored teen-agers the executives said they were forced to take a more active role. They also will share information with government computer cops.
"We are sending a strong signal to would-be attackers that we are not going to let you get away with cyberterrorism," said Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta, nominated to be transportation secretary in the Bush administration. "We stand united."
To work together, the companies said they eventually might need some antitrust exemptions and would benefit from a bill in Congress that would exempt any data they shared with the government from freedom-of-information requests.
The executives said they had seen computer attacks increase threefold since the February 2000 incidents that choked top Web companies like the Yahoo! search engine and auction leader eBay.
If such attacks happened today, they said, the companies could react more quickly.
"Every one of us either has been or will be attacked in cyberspace," said Mary Ann Davidson of database giant Oracle. "A threat against one is truly a threat against all."