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Cybercrime team aims to protect computers

By Nathaniel Hoffman
Date: August 22, 2003

Cyber Crime WALNUT CREEK - Jim Ellis blocked more than 1,000 viruses from infecting computers at the Walnut Creek law offices of Morgan Miller & Blair during a 36-hour period that ended Thursday.

"Since I was 10 years old it has been a constant battle between good and evil," the senior systems engineer said.

The Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce wants to develop more cyber-warriors like Ellis.

With viruses like Blaster and SoBig spreading across the Internet, local business owners are talking more about worms, spyware, firewalls and intrusion detection. A new Chamber initiative called Think Security First aims to give them the knowledge to handle any computer security problems that may crop up.

"It's not about what you install on your computer," Think Security First progenitor Neal O'Farrell said. "It's what you instill in your mind."

O'Farrell, a 22-year veteran of the information security industry, has assembled a team of cybercrime experts including Jim Anderson, former head of global security for Visa and Brad Kofed, former White House adviser on Y2K. The team is presenting a series of free breakfast workshops to local businesses starting with a special session with the Walnut Creek Police Department this afternoon.

O'Farrell said since cybercrime investigations can be expensive and involve multiple jurisdictions, focusing on prevention is much cheaper.

Lt. Mark Covington, Walnut Creek police operations manager, said a city resident who falls victim to identity theft, for instance, could find personal information sold and used halfway across the country, or even in another country.

"You don't know where the crime was committed," Covington said.

O'Farrell calls the initiative a neighborhood watch-type program, where cyberspace is the neighborhood. He hopes the model will spread to other cities through chambers of commerce.

Jay Hoyer, president of the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce, is just now learning how to survive in that neighborhood.

Hoyer recently got an e-mail that appeared to be from his bank. He instinctively started filling out the personal account information it requested.

Then he thought twice.

The Think Security First team confirmed his suspicions that a bank would not send a casual e-mail asking for account information, a common scam that could lead to identity theft.

It was eye-opening for Hoyer, who said he grew up in Iowa where his family never had a lock on the door.

"I never really thought about locking the computer."

Original article at: http://www.bayarea.com

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