Be careful: Big Brother is watching—and collecting data from your personal computer or even your smart phone.
It’s a trend that puts at risk the safety of personal data through identity theft and, on a larger scale, our military security.
The problem is so serious that information systems are increasingly on the minds of national officials, business executives and local governments. The concern grows as more forms of sensitive data can be compromised through viruses or cyber-attacks.
During a recent speech, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said to a trade group, Business Executives for National Security, that cyber-attacks, “Can be considered the equivalent to the terrorist attack of 9/11, only carried out by a computer.”
As an example, Panetta mentioned a July intrusion involving Aramco, an oil company based in Saudi Arabia, in which a virus, known as Shamoon, erased critical data on some 30,000 files and replaced them with images of burning American flags.
In response to such often crippling security breaches, the Pentagon is at work training a core of military service members who will be adept at defending against cyber-attacks using technology-based weapons to protect against threats from countries known to engage in these kinds of invasions by stealth.
At a more local level—including our own east Valley communities—cyber-attacks could target a municipality’s water systems, transportation networks and electrical grids.
Cities in metro Phoenix are fortifying their defenses and providing the public with educational information to build their awareness and safety, says Bill Kalaf, a local expert in technology, who operates a consulting business, Computer Forensic Investigator, and also works with Mesa police to increase their ability to fight crime with technology.
“Staying one step ahead of the bad guys is a continuing challenge, and law enforcement is responding with intelligence-led policing to take advantage of additional tools that can make fighting crime more effective,” said Kalaf.
“Many people don’t understand the cyber intruder that can invade their personal technology and capture private information until their identity is stolen. There is an international market for data such as your personal driver’s license or Social Security number.”
Kalaf recommends that consumers stay in the know about cyber-attacks and secure their technology tools by using many of the free tips that can be found on the Web at www.stopthinkconnect.org.
According to Kalaf, Mesa has joined the Cyber Awareness Coalition and pledged to help get the word out about a national “Stop.Think.Connect” campaign, which is designed to combat threats and raise cyber security awareness throughout the country among the public.
The campaign urges Internet users to:
Stop—Before you use the Internet, take time to understand the risks and learn how to spot potential problems.
Think—Take a moment to be certain the path ahead is clear. Watch for warning signs and consider how your actions on-line could impact your safety or your family’s.
Connect—Enjoy the Internet with greater confidence, knowing you’ve taken the right steps to safeguard yourself and your computer.
Stop. Think. Connect. —Protect yourself and help keep the Web a safer place for everyone.
Kalaf works with individuals and small businesses that may be operating without security software, which is a mistake,” he says.
“A cyber attack to your computer is a violation of your personal security like a break-in to your home, but it takes place on your computer.”
In addition to identify theft, cyber security threats can take many forms, including include on-line fraud and cyber bulling.
It is important to understand how these threats work in order to better protect your family against them, says Kalaf, who notes that the city of Phoenix offers many suggestions on a newly unveiled information page on its website at www.phoenix.gov
The city’s Information and Security Office posted the information to encourage responsible use of the Internet and to help parents guide their children through the technology maze.
For those who use a personal computer in public places, Phoenix created a downloadable brochure on wireless access as well.
No matter whether cyber criminals steal data from your mobile phone, personal computer or track you on your GPS, the extra effort to secure your technology is worth the effort as the threats continue to grow.