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White House Cyber Chief Sees Joint Effort Against Net Threats


Howard A. Schmidt Photo by Bruce Gilbert

The looming issue of global cyber crime took center stage  Aug. 3 as 350 representatives from government, law enforcement, the private sector and academia took part in Fordham University’s second International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS).

The conference, which attracted attendees from 50 nations on every continent except Antarctica, was co-sponsored by FBI.

Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd at the Lincoln Center Campus, White House Cyber Security Coordinator Howard A. Schmidt delivered a keynote address that outlined the serious economic and national security issues facing the United States in cyberspace today.

The Internet, he said, served as a trading platform for $10 trillion in business last year, and that number will more than double in ten years. Yet many small businesses—a little less than under 50 percent of them—don’t use virus software, and even fewer of them check it when they have it.

“Mass destruction from malware is common, so much so that criminals even provide technical support for their products,” said Schmidt, who was named the first special assistant to the president and cyber security coordinator by President Obama in 2009. “There has been enough exfiltration of personal property in this country in the past years to fill the Library of Congress over and over again. So we must do more.”

Schmidt outlined several areas being discussed under the Comprehensive National Cyberspace Initiative. They include:

—   Stronger deterrence for cyber criminals, including stiff prison sentences of up to 20 years for cyber theft;
—   More research and development, including resilience systems in networks for better backups, or moving target technology to float critical information within a network so it is harder to locate;
—    A cleanup of governmental computer networks to limit connections to the worldwide web to Trusted Internet Connections (TIC);
—   Increasing law enforcement capabilities and working to share information across government agencies, such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and with other nations. Schmidt also said some formerly classified information could be shared with the private sector.

“But we can’t lose sight of [individual]privacy,” Schmidt cautioned. “There is a core principle that many of us believe in—that privacy and civil liberties will not take a back seat to better security. That’s part of who we are.”

Schmidt said that the federal government was interested in work being done in the academic and the private sectors to develop a trusted identity system. Recently, the federal government released its own draft of a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, an attempt to help make Internet transactions easier and more secure. It has asked for public feedback.

Schmidt also urged individuals to protect themselves.

“Maybe it’s just something you do differently—even just changing your password helps us develop better trust in cyberspace,” he said. “The key thing is that we each have to do our part to secure it.”

The three-day conference has attracted global law enforcement groups from all over the world, including Pakistan, Poland, Australia, Korea, Mexico and Indonesia.  It has also drawn giants from the software, Internet and telecommunications private sectors. Google and Microsoft are co-sponsors of portions of the event.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, said that the decision to partner with the FBI on a second cyber security conference was based on the success of Fordham’s premiere cyber security conference, held in January, 2009.

“Fordham, located in New York, the center of the world, is an appropriate place to gather to make our world more secure,” said Father McShane. “Our attendees represent the best thinking in cyber crime—not only in the U.S. but throughout the world.”

The conference will run through Thursday, Aug. 5. For a full schedule of events check the web page. Follow the conference by visiting or by searching for the hashtag #ICCS on Twitter.


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