Experts to Discuss Threat of Massive Cyber Assault
By BRAD GRAVES – San Diego Business Journal Staff
It’s more than just protecting your personal computer from a rampaging software worm.
Cybersecurity — as it relates to personal security and national security — will be the topic on the table at a panel discussion April 10 at San Diego State University.
An assault on the nation’s computer networks could be “the next way that the bad guys are going to get at us,” said Darin Andersen, chief operating officer of ESET, a San Diego maker of anti-virus software.
On a more personal scale, there is the phenomenon of cybercrime, which victimizes individuals by stealing their money or subjecting them to harassment.
ESET and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are two sponsors of “Securing the Perimeter: a Public-Private Sector Discussion on Cyber Security.”
Panelists will include representatives from the Department of Homeland Security as well as San Diego police Chief William Lansdowne. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce hosts the event.
A Specter Of Hackers
A blow to computer networks could be something to rival the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “There could be one catastrophic event that totally changes how these things work,” Andersen said.
Indeed, cyber attacks are becoming components of war. Distributed denial-of-service attacks, which generate huge waves of Internet traffic to disable servers, accompanied the Russia-Georgia conflict last summer.
Hackers are not just capable of war, but espionage as well. Unsecure networks let hackers steal government secrets, not to mention the crown jewels of industry: intellectual property.
In some ways the United States is not as advanced as other countries, Andersen says.
China is further along than the United States in securing its cyber infrastructure, the executive says. There, the government looks at content going in and out of the country.
It also monitors its networks for potential threats from foreign agencies and governments.
U.S. citizens might be concerned that more government scrutiny of the Internet infringes on privacy. That promises to be “an important and ongoing debate over the next decade,” Andersen said.
Michael Erbschloe, who writes extensively on computer topics, told the Business Journal in 2001 that individuals and companies will probably have to trade away some of their online privacy to have Internet security.
How To Survive
At the time, Erbschloe had just penned “Information Warfare: How to Survive Cyber Attacks.” Though mostly nonfiction, the book had a novelistic introductory chapter showing how 10 hackers took down the Web in a few weeks in an attack dubbed “Pearl Harbor 2.”
It’s an issue that concerns Washington.
For an in-depth look at the issue, Andersen recommends reading “Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency,” a report released in December by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
At one point, the report’s authors call for striking a balance between public and private efforts to regulate cyberspace. “Voluntary action is not enough,” they wrote. The authors also say the United States should not rely too heavily on market forces, which they call “ill-equipped to meet national security and public safety requirements.”
Still, the report returns again and again to the importance of privacy and civil liberties.
Local Government’s Role
While the federal government has a stake in domestic security, U.S. citizens feel local governments should do more to foil cybercriminals.
A nationwide poll commissioned by ESET found 65 percent of respondents said local government should do more to address cybercrime. Competitive Edge Research & Communication conducted the poll, calling 1,000 adults throughout the United States in late January and early February.
ESET also has an initiative called “Securing Our E-city.” Details are on its Web site.
Part of the fight is helping people identify and know how to resist “social engineering” tactics.
Social engineering refers to manipulating someone to give up sensitive information.
Here, the fight is against ignorance, Andersen says. “People unfortunately don’t know what they don’t know.”
The panel discussion — aimed at executives and information technology pros, but open to all — runs from 7:30 a.m. to noon April 10.
There is no charge to attend, but reservations are required. Call Angela Flori at 619-544-1343.