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Cyber Security Is for All of Us

Posted by Rob Riggins

Defense Secretary Defense Leon Panetta warned of a potential “cyber-Pearl Harbor” yesterday in a speech at the Intrepid Museum in New York while making a push for cyber security legislation.

While some may say this is overstatement, the threat is real. It comes to life when you listen to FBI agents and cyber security experts talk about real world examples. Earlier this week the Government Technology & Services Coalition, the FBI Washington Field Office and the local Infragard chapter presented a focus on cyber threats and vulnerabilities that face our digital infrastructure.

The threat goes beyond destructive actions in a cyber Pearl Harbor. Our economy is based on knowledge and ideas. The theft of those knowledge and ideas has huge consequences as well, and includes issues large and small. From derailing trains with hazardous cargo, to clearing out an individual’s online bank accounts, to the stealing of ideas from new and emerging technologies.

Catching the Bad Guys

The subject can almost be overwhelming. How will law enforcement ever catch up?

But they are having success in bringing down the bad guys. The key is to identify the people behind the scam or issue and going after them. Since most of these issues originate overseas we can’t always find the bad guys. But companies and governments are more willing to share information and help than ever before.

The patchwork of inconsistent laws across the globe is also an ongoing challenge. In some countries cyber crime is not illegal and may be considered a legitimate way to make money. That’s why organizations such as the NSA are focusing on hiring cyber security analysts who can view information from a non-western cultural perspective, because the overwhelming majority of threats are coming from China.

Law enforcement is taking a proactive stance as well by infiltrating the networks of organized crime that perpetrate many of the cyber attacks.

Today’s Digital Challenges

We all have a role to play. The front line of defense and the weakest line of defense is still us. Some of the challenges and things to think about in our everyday digital lives:

  1. Digital kids often have no fear of anything on the internet. Downloading a pirated movie seems relatively harmless. That is unless it also downloads a virus that clears out an online bank account accessed from the same computer.
  2. Sophisticated, personalized phishing is the new normal. Why bother trying to take down an organization’s firewall when it’s so much easier to get in through a phishing email. As we’ve all seen, the phishing emails we receive have advanced from the days of the Nigerian lottery winners to emails that appear to be from people we know about relevant issues. The recent White House breach was due to an employee clicking on a link. Something that many of us have done at one time or another.
  3. Smartphones. The move toward using your own smartphone or tablet as a work device can have serious implications. As can even having that device at work. New Android malware turns off the clicking noise that your smartphone makes when a picture is taken. The malware can then take pictures as you move about your office with your phone, taking pictures of plans, calendars, etc. In certain types of business this could lead to a devastating loss of information to competitors. And think of all the personal information you carry on your smartphone. Daunting isn’t it?

What You Can do for National Cyber Security Awareness Month

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop. Think. Connect. Program has cyber security tips and information for individuals.

We all have a role to play in cyber security. Make sure you play your part too.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 12, 2012 11:40 am

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