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Computer Security: What Your Constituents Need to Know
October 22, 2004

Overview | Video | Panelist Biographies | Toolkit | Media Advisory

On October 22, 2004, as part of Cyber Security Month, the Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission and the National Cyber Security Alliance, hosted a Constituent Education Workshop, "Computer Security: What Your Constituents Need to Know." An expert panel addressed Congressional staffers, stressing the importance of constituent education in the fight against spammers, phishers, and other online criminals.

FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle opened the proceedings by outlining the growth of online threats, noting that many of these scourges seek to undermine our entire communications infrastructure. Increasingly, cyber attacks target individuals and small businesses, and marshal these computers into powerful "zombie" networks that can be controlled remotely to spam and harass thousands of others. He challenged Congressional offices to make information security a priority, given that more and more constituents are making online activities a part of their daily lives.

While they did acknowledge the gravity of today's online threats, the panelists noted that the majority of attacks could be prevented if household computers simply maintained up-to-date security software. Susan Koehler of Microsoft said that the anti-virus protection on a new computer becomes out-of-date out after a short period, but some consumers are not aware that they are at risk. Wendy Tazelaar of Wells Fargo Online explained that, "There is confusion about what is really risky behavior on the Internet." Many Wells Fargo users surveyed thought that "providing confidential information ... in an email was less risky than paying bills online."

Panelist Michael Aisenberg also noted that often, the weakest link in the security chain is the "18 inches between the screen and the back of the chair," but acknowledged that nothing less than a concerted effort by all parties -- Congressional offices, users, hardware companies, software companies, and law enforcement -- would solve the problem.

Tim Lordan of the Internet Caucus Advisory Committee moderated this event, featuring an expert panel, which included:

This event was hosted in conjunction with the Internet Caucus and its co-chairs - Senators Burns and Leahy and Congressmen Goodlatte and Boucher.