GBC’s Fry: It’s not good to be clueless in cyberspace

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Do you know what was in that cool little photoblog app that you installed on your office computer last Tuesday?

This is a seemingly innocent rhetorical question from cyber expert Bill Anderson, founder of Oculis Labs in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

His answer is far less harmless.

“It was a trojan,” Anderson says. “Today someone in Uzbekistan owns your network.”

This is not a laugh line for Anderson. It’s his way of driving home a very serious message: It’s dangerous to be clueless in cyberspace.

In hearings before the U.S. Senate’s subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, chaired by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, experts revealed that we protect ourselves from about 80 percent of the cyber attacks against America.

“That means 20 percent are getting through. That’s unacceptable” says Cardin.

“We are literally talking about the defense of America,” Cardin says.

If that seems like a stretch, consider that an entire country – Estonia – has already been victimized by a cyber attack in 2007 that manipulated infrastructure, defaced web sites, shut down communication and disrupted banks.

Business and government managers need not panic because these threats exist. Smart, “reasonable techniques” can protect our information infrastructure.

Maryland is squarely in the middle of a new national cyber security effort — a role that our state, with its abundance of IT talent, university resources and federal facilities, is well-suited for, says economic and business development Secretary Christian Johansson.

Nevertheless, vulnerabilities remain in Maryland’s corner of cyberspace. Stan Nolan, cyber-security lead at Nolan Technologies in Columbia, suggests that a state “computer emergency response team” be created to assess cyber threats to Maryland business and government and develop approaches to mitigate them.

“If Maryland is going to be the cyber center of excellence, than we’d better have our act together in protecting our own industries,” says Nolen.

Sounds like an idea worth exploring in these information-driven times.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.


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