The U. S. Secret Service today kicked off the Cleveland Electronic Crimes Task Force. Created under the USA Patriot Act, this is one of 13 task forces in cities around the country.
The task forces are partnerships between government and the private sector to fight high-tech crimes. The emphasis is on preventing cyber-crime from happening, rather than relying on law enforcement activity after the fact.
As was pointed out by one of the speakers at today’s kick-off, over 85% of IT infrastructure resides in private business. To prevent cyber crime, the government and business have no choice but to work together.
Dr. Melodie Mayberry Stewart, CIO for the City of Cleveland, pointed out how the impact of cyber-crime on businesses has grown dramatically simply because so much more business is conducted using the Internet. She stated, “As more and more services become Web-based, companies have greater exposure to hacker attacks and other disruptions.”
This exposure is escalating. According to Carnegie Mellon University’s CERT Center, the number of cyber incidents in the first 6 months of 2003 nearly equalled the number of incidents for all of 2002.
The takeaways from this task force kick-off? You’ve probably heard them before, but they bear repeating:
(1) Make sure all your business computers and networks are protected by firewalls and anti-virus software.
(2) Stay up to date with software (e.g., Windows) security patches and anti-virus definitions.
(3) Make sure your employees understand the importance of protecting their home computers. That way, if they log in from home, they won’t inadvertantly create a “backdoor tunnel” into your business systems for a hacker or worm to enter.
(4) Keep an eye out in major media for alerts about worms, viruses and other attacks. Monitoring agencies such as the CERT Center notify the media with practical instructions on what to watch for and, importantly, how to recover from attacks.