The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University are to team up to prevent and respond to cyber-attacks on the Internet.

The new group, called the ‘US Computer Emergency Response Team’ or ‘US-CERT’, will start as a partnership between the National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) in DHS and the CERT Coordination Center, a federally funded research and development centre in Pittsburgh that receives money from the US Department of Defense.

US-CERT will provide a centre that coordinates both public and private response to cyber-threats, such as the recent Blaster and Sobig worm outbreaks, DHS said.

The new group will also reach out to cyber-security agencies in other countries, coordinating with international CERTs as well as private sector security companies to develop new detection tools and encourage the use of common protocols to report software vulnerabilities.

The goal is to reduce the government's and private sector's response time for new vulnerabilities and threats to 30 minutes by the end of 2004, DHS said.

The group will also work with infrastructure owners and other technology experts to increase the use of security technologies and security best practices.

The new partnership was welcomed by the security software industry.

Antivirus company Network Associates issued a statement Monday applauding the creation of the US-CERT.

"This is clearly another big step toward creating a 'culture of security'," said Vincent Gullotto, vice president of the anti-virus emergency response team at Network Associates, in the statement.

The Business Software Alliance, a software industry group, also offered support for the creation of US-CERT. In a statement, BSA President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Holleyman cited the need for "extensive cooperation" between public and private sector organizations to manage the country's critical infrastructure and "move this nation's cyber-security preparedness to the next level."