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MOST PEOPLE DON'T UNDERSTAND CYBER THREATS, SAYS FORMER DHS CHIEF

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Posted on December 20, 2012

Michael Chertoff, who ran the Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, says there's a reason that computer security isn't up to the threat posed by cyber criminals: Doing it right is too complicated for most people.

A large part of the problem "is that the solution is inaccessible to the average consumer," Mr. Chertoff said in an interview at the RSA conference in San Francisco. While it's generally possible to secure a computer and protect one's personal information. often those measures require technical expertise beyond the grasp of the typical computer owner, he said. Not only that, the problem itself is hard to understand: There isn't much dialogue about cyber issues that shine a light on the nature of the threat, and attempts to describe it often get bogged down in tech jargon. The result is a natural inclination by most people to ignore cyber threats.

The solution isn't just to educate people, Mr. Chertoff said. "You have to offer people solutions that they are comfortable with," he said.

Getting there probably requires changes by the government, the private sector, and individuals. The government can start by talking more openly about cyber issues, thus raising awareness of the dangers that exist, he said. The private sector needs to develop security systems that are easier to use and don't require people to remember 20 different passwords. Biometric devices that recognize a person fingerprint are a step in the right direction, Mr. Chertoff said.

Individuals need to take responsibility, too, of course. The first step is to recognize the value of personal data and other digital information. All too often people are willing to share details about themselves in exchange for some kind of service. This gets people in "the habit of viewing your personal information as something cheap," Mr. Chertoff said. That's an attitude that people can fix right away while waiting for easier-to-use security products, he said.




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