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POLL: CYBERCRIME CONCERNS AMERICANS

Source: Associated Press

Posted on June 19, 2000

      More than two-thirds of Americans are concerned about the threat of hackers and cybercriminals, says a poll released Monday at a conference of technology executives and law enforcement officials.

      "Americans are not satisfied with existing protections from computer criminals," said Dick Brown, chairman of the technology company EDS, which commissioned the poll. "The future of the cybermarketplace will depend, to a large degree, on safety and security."

      But some technology companies have expressed reluctance to report hacker attacks because of the inconvenience and embarrassment of an investigation.

      Attorney General Janet Reno told the conference in Herndon, a suburb of Washington, that law enforcement would minimize the disruptions to business when investigating cybercrimes.

      "We must share information about vulnerabilities, so that we can each take steps to protect our systems against attack," Reno said. "We have a common goal: to keep the nation's computer networks secure, safe and reliable for America's citizens and its businesses."

      Reno said dealing with Internet attacks was similar to fighting traditional crime.

      "When someone's home is burglarized, it's important that the victim notify law enforcement as quickly as possible," she said.

      However, most people feel hackers are more elusive than burglars. The poll found nearly two-thirds of Americans feel computer lawbreakers are less likely to be caught than real-world criminals.

      In the latest such incident, America Online confirmed Friday that hackers had gained access to the personal information of some of its users.

      While AOL will cooperate with government agencies to track down the hackers, the company won't involve law enforcement until their internal investigation is complete, spokesman Rich D'Amato said.

      These incidents are occurring as the global marketplace for information-related technology has grown to $2.1 trillion and is expected to surpass $3 trillion by 2003, said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, which joined EDS in commissioning the poll.

      Miller said preventing Internet crime by educating children about ethical behavior for the online world was as important as enforcing existing laws.

      "We need to educate their parents too because we find that some parents think, 'isn't Johnny or Susie cute because they brought down the Pentagon Web site,"' Miller said. "We have to teach them that's not cute, that's not appropriate."

      Reno said actively recruiting young people into Internet crime fighting could also help offset a lack of skilled government employees lost to better paying jobs in private industry.

      "We can attract people to government for a longer period of time in return for assistance such as what ROTC produced," she said.

      Computer crime has quadrupled over the past three years, but funding for prosecutors hasn't changed, according to a survey by the FBI and San Francisco's Computer Security Institute.

      Last month at a meeting in Paris the world's most powerful industrial nations - desperate to combat global Internet attacks - appealed to the business world to help police the Web.

      In October, the leaders of technology companies from around the world will discuss security issues at their own global summit in Washington.

      The EDS poll, which has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percent, was conducted by Fabrizio McLaughlin & Associates, who interviewed 1,000 adults nationwide this month.




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