Cybersecurity: Are You Safe?

More than 40 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen in 2005 from TJX stores because of insecure wireless networks. A total of 250,000 computers were infected in 2005 and 2006 with information-stealing malware. And the Federal Trade Commission received more than 800,000 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints in 2007.

While modern technologies make shopping, paying bills and managing accounts easier, they — and we — aren’t infallible. We often have a false sense of security, and our electronic transactions can leave us vulnerable to cyberattacks.

“The good guys look at the Internet and say, ‘We can make people’s lives more convenient,’” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, a nonprofit that provides knowledge and tools to prevent cybercrime. “[But] we’ve got to remember that cybercriminals take all that potential and they use it for bad things.”

Because Internet use spread so quickly, proper security features were not developed. The eBays and Amazons of the world were born overnight, and consumers were driven to spend more time online, opening themselves up to the possibility of cybercrime. Now companies, organizations, government agencies and researchers are playing catch-up, trying to retrofit security features.

“If you think about cars, it was many decades from the introduction of the car [that] we became the car culture. If you think about the Internet, it’s just been like a dozen years,” Kaiser said. “That speed of rollout and that entrepreneurial spirit have brought…



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