Invasion of the computer snatchers: Prof says computer security is paramount

Oregon recently celebrated its 151st birthday, but in cyberspace it’s still the Wild West, says Professor Martin Dwomoh-Tweneboah. Lawlessness is alive and well, as hackers unleash worms and spyware or build “botnet” (robot) armies of “zombie” computers that send spam email or penetrate Websites without their owner’s knowledge.

The Linfield computer science professor has some advice for personal computer users.

“Download every single update released by Microsoft and other antivirus software developers. Programmers are working 24/7 to uncover viruses and other security breaches and write antidotes for them. Each update is a response to real threats.”

“Every day there are millions of criminal attacks on individual, corporate and government computers in Oregon,” Dwomoh-Tweneboah says. “It’s one of the largest issues CEOs have to grapple with. And if they aren’t grappling with it, they do so at their own peril.”

Hackers steal confidential information and intellectual property to turn a profit, Dwomoh-Tweneboah says, and state government systems, with their endless reams of personal information, are in the high-risk category. “The DMV, Oregon Lottery and IRS are attacked every single minute by people who want to steal your identity. As long as our state government has valuable information, criminals will try to penetrate our security systems.”

Many hackers are in the business to make illegal bank transfers or steal R&D trade secrets to gain an edge on a rival. “Corporations in the state are under siege from people who want their intellectual property,” Dwomoh-Tweneboah says.

“The next major threat will come in the form of a cyber attack, he says. “Middle Eastern countries are investing heavily in training, and everything from electric grids to financial institutions is controlled by computers. A well planned cyber attack could take down government offices, multinational corporations and Main Street. If rogue hackers can click a mouse and bring the country down, it would be a disaster of unspeakable proportions.

“Hackers have not yet been successful on a massive scale, but it’s only a matter of time,” he says. “It’s not how, but when.”

“Fortunately, leading technology companies in the U.S. are working to develop solutions,” says Phil Bond ’78, a Linfield trustee member who is president and CEO of TechAmerica. Representing 1,500 member companies, TechAmerica educates industry executives, policy makers and opinion leaders on the promise of technological innovation.

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