At the World IT Congress, vice-chairman of the US president's critical infrastructure protection board, Howard Schmidt, said IT private sector participation in protecting the national infrastructure is critical. Although, utilities, telecoms and air traffic are privately owned, any information shared should remain confidential.

Schmidt said the US is examining amendments to the Freedom of Information Act so that shared private sector information with the government is classified and not made available under the Act.

"We want to make an exception under the law so this information is protected and not available under freedom of information," he said.

Aiming to improve trust between industry and government, Schmidt said he wants to stem the cynicism that arises when government officials arrive at a company proclaiming: "We're from the government and we are here to help you." When this statement is made to industry, Schmidt said, it often leads to laughter; this needs to change, he added.

In the wake of the 11 September attacks, Schmidt said the US government is actively developing a national strategy, which incorporates international objectives, to defend cyberspace.

He said these initiatives include proposals for Govnet (a private fibre network), scholarships for IT security professionals, a National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Centre to recreate worst case scenarios and a Cyber Warning and Information Network (CWIN).