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Cyber Secure Institute calls America to arms in fight against cyber crime

Cyber Secure Institute : 09 March, 2009  (Company News)
Director of Cyber Secure Institute issues statement detailing the way in which poor IT security is hampering innovation and the future development of the US economy
Rob Housman, the Executive Director of the Cyber Secure Institute has released this statement:

America's competitive advantage has always been, and needs to remain, our ability to innovate. American innovation has given rise to everything from mass production to skyscrapers to airplanes. America has brought the world four successive generations of the information age, first with the telephone, then the television, then the computer, and then the Internet.

To be successful America needs to constantly push the limits of innovation and efficiencies. We need to be out in front of the learning curve. We need to be highly entrepreneurial and technologically driven.

But American innovation can't take consumers and companies to the next level if they don't want to go there because they fear the security of their data, money, and personal privacy.

People and companies are already beginning to hold back on adopting new advances because of IT security fears. For example, a recent study by a major market research firm determined that, "Security concerns are the single biggest factor inhibiting consumer acceptance of mobile banking."

Given the inherent insecurity of digital infrastructure people have good reason to be concerned. Consider the recent track record:

* Heartland Payment Systems recently announced what may be the single largest data breach ever—implicating tens of millions of credit card transactions. The breach was caused by malicious software. The company reports it has no idea who inserted the software or how it got there. Nor does it know exactly whose data was compromised.

* A November 2008 study of mobile device used by of over 1,000 healthcare professionals found that 93% of the devices were at risk. The study found that 49% of the healthcare professionals downloaded sensitive patient data on their devices. Over 71 percent protected their devices and sensitive data with just a single password. At least 13% had lost one or more devices containing sensitive information. No wonder that numerous studies find upwards of 70-80% of Americans are concerned about the security of their electronic medical records.

If people don't trust the security of IT systems we will never be able to fully capitalize on their promise. Smart devices have little value if smart people won't use them. Markets won't move beyond online videos and books if ecommerce increasingly becomes "e-swindled."

The American private sector has been slow to realize that insecurity is compromising its ability to compete and even slower to take the steps needed to address the problem. This needs to change.

There are a variety of tools the new Administration should consider to drive this change.

The Obama Administration plans digital infrastructure funding as part of the stimulus package. These monies should be used to make the digital superhighway safer and more secure, not just extend its reach. For example, we welcome funding to deploy new technologies to improve healthcare, but if these technologies are inherently insecure we can do as much harm as good.

At the same time the new Administration should also consider a variety of other mechanisms to cajole if not compel companies to deploy inherently secure digital infrastructure. Such mechanisms could range from cyber security disclosure requirements under the Securities and Exchange Commission to actual baseline standards for critical systems.

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