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EDITIONS
 Friday, 1 March, 2002, 15:17 GMT
Cyber security given new emphasis
Man surfing the internet, BBC
Hacking attacks in the US more than doubled in a year

Following the terror attacks in New York and Washington last September, security is the new buzzword.

For the high-tech industry the emphasis on shoring up networks from hacker attacks could not come at a more opportune time.

US President George W Bush has put the issue centre stage by proposing a $1.5bn increase for computer and network security.

Legislation to train an army of workers who can thwart cyber terrorists has just passed the House of Representatives. The Senate is likely to introduce a similar bill in the coming months.

Even before the atrocities of 11 September, Reality Research estimated that businesses worldwide stood to lose more than $1.5 trillion last year as a result of cyber assaults.

'Real and immediate threat'

After 11 September cyber security has become a government priority.

Mike Honda, the Democrat congressman representing Silicon Valley, said that cyber attacks were a real and immediate threat.

"We've figured out our physical vulnerabilities but we really haven't figured out the cyber vulnerabilities."

No one wants to let people know that they have been hacked because to say so would invite other attacks

Brian Breton, RSA security
Chris Wysopal, a research scientist with @Stake, a digital solutions organisation catering to Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies, said too many companies are still complacent about being broken into.

"People aren't even putting the technology and processes in place to even know when they are getting hacked a lot of the time," he said.

"As long as it doesn't shut down their businesses or they can cover it up, they are kind of happy with the state of affairs that's going on."

'Prevention better than cure'

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hacking attacks in America more than doubled from 20,000 to over 50,000 in a year.

Brian Breton, product marketing director with RSA security, said although hacking had been around for a long time it seemed to have made the news more frequently over the past two or three years because of the internet.

"It's one of the untold secrets out there - no one wants to let people know that they have been hacked because to say so would invite other attacks," he said.

Chris Wysopal said that prevention was better than cure, and preventative technology was available.

"But a lot of people just don't want to pay for it which is a big mistake because you are going to get broken into.

"You are going to have to expend resources, even if you keep it internal to your company you are going to have to expend resources cleaning that up and recovering from that situation," he said.

"It is less expensive to be prepared for that situation," he added.

As policy makers come to grips with cyber weaknesses the e-security industry is poised to cash in.

The timing could not have been much better given that Information technology spending has been in the doldrums for more than a year.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Maggie Shiels
"The e-security industry is poised to cash in"
See also:

20 Jun 01 | Business
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