Saturday, July 11, 2009

KEY : Education is the Key to IT Security

KEY : Education is the Key to IT Security

FBI wants more online security education and skepticism

Symantec-hosted panel discussion reveals hacker profiles are hard to define, which is why security should be top-of-mind

By Maxine Cheung

9 July 2009


NEW YORK - According to two U.S. government officials, Internet crime rates will continue to increase because end-users and enterprises lack awareness and education about the current online threat landscape.

During a Symantec hosted security panel held here Tuesday, Michael Stawasz, senior counsel for the computer crime and intellectual property section at the U.S. Department of Justice, based in Washington and Austin Berglas, supervisory special agent for the cyber crime unit at the FBI's New York office, spoke about today's cyber crime landscape and gave their advice on how users and organizations can prevent it.

With the Internet and online services being so widely accessed and available, online threats and vulnerabilities are becoming more common, said Stawasz.

“At the U.S. Department of Justice, getting our best practices out to scale for the amount of crimes that are being committed will be the biggest challenge for us at this point," Stawasz said. “Just having one or two people trained isn't enough for the whole country because you need to get more people trained.”

Berglas said that the individuals who are most vulnerable to cyber crime attacks are those who do not properly protect themselves and their computers.

While the motive behind many online attacks is for financial gain, Stawasz said there are people who commit these crimes for other reasons, such as for power and just for fun too.

Berglas agreed and gave the example of a 12-year-old kid who was redirecting traffic from a law firm's Web site to a site he had made, just for fun.

“You don't have to be that technically sophisticated to commit a cyber crime now,” he said. “You don't have to be a computer genius to partner with other criminals, or to purchase what you need to commit these crimes.”

In fact, both Berglas and Stawasz said it's difficult to define what a computer hacker or cyber criminal actually looks like, simply because the people who are doing it are so varied. Based on what he's seen, Stawasz said it's fair to say there are more male cyber criminals than there are women. Not only are juveniles committing these crimes, but adults and older adults are too, he added.

To better protect yourself from being the victim of an attack, Berglas says it's critical that users educate themselves about the threats and issues that are out in the online world today.

“People have to be careful with any personal information and documents they have on the computer,” Berglas said. “You have to be careful and users should ask themselves if they really want to click on the link from an e-mail user they don't know. Companies should be educating their customers the same way because the absolute vulnerability in this day and age is the uneducated consumer.”

Having security and anti-virus software will help any consumer and business; however Berglas says having just this, is simply not enough. Computers should also be kept up to date with security updates and users should guard their user id and passwords, he added.

It's as the popular saying goes, “If something doesn't look right, it probably isn't,” Berglas said.

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