Digital Pros Fight Cyberspace Predators

Everyone with a digital device is a potential cyber security risk

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    NEWSLETTERS

    More than 250 locally-based organizations are involved in the campaign to promote cyber-savviness. (Published Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011)

    From our desktop computers to laptops, our smart phones to iPads, modern society is a growing target for terrorists, thieves and bullies.

    Everyone with a digital device is a potential cyber security risk.

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    More than 250 locally-based organizations are involved in the campaign to promote cyber-savviness. (Published Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011)

    Experts say government agencies and big business have made great strides in protecting their digital turf, warding off fanatics, military and industrial and spies, organized crime, and hackers.

    It's small businesses and individuals who are most vulnerable and, increasingly, at risk.

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    Like the Wild, Wild West of yesteryear, cyberspace is full of 'Black Hats' looking to commit everything from malicious mischief to mass murder.

    "It's moved on from disgruntled kids in bedrooms, messing about with computers, to really a machinery out there -- very specialized," said Stephen Cobb, a cyber security 'evangelist' for ESET, whose North American headquarters is in San Diego.

    So a lot 'White Hats' gathered in San Diego on the last Tuesday in October -- "National Cybersecurity Awareness Month" -- to talk up mutual defense strategies, from Homeland Security to home-computer users.

    They've learned that the predators who stalk the Internet hail from all quarters of global society.

    "There are criminal elements, obviously," said Roberta Stempfly, acting assistant secretary of cyber security and communication issues for the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.

    "There are others across the board, from 'Phishing' to 'Spear-phishing' to identity theft and other components," Stempfly said.  "But there are things people can do."

    Such as what experts call basic "cyber-hygiene".

    Among the recommendations?

    Frequent changes of passwords and phrases, and thoughtful -- not haphazard -- clicking and downloading.

    For all the firewalls and cyber-security applications now in use, industry experts warn that sophisticated 'Black Hats' never stop brainstorming new methods and avenues of attack.

    "And what some of these cyber-criminals have figured out is that we, the people -- the users -- are the weak link now," Cobb said. "They're looking at, 'Where's the easiest target?' And we need to kind of 'up' our game, in terms of ourselves as users of digital devices."

    The cyber-security symposium was sponsored by ESET, which is distributing a tool kit as part of its "Securing Our eCity Initiative".

    Among the resources, says Liz Fraumann, director of ESET's cyber security awareness and education, is "a message that every single digital citizen can understand -- 'Stop, Think, Connect' before you connect to any digital device'."

    More than 250 locally-based organizations are involved in the campaign to promote cyber-savviness.