Security biz thrives on fear

Wednesday, 16 April 2003, 12:30 PM EST

One of the peculiar traits of the computer security industry is that, generally speaking, no one takes much interest in it unless they are actually feeling insecure.

And the more insecure they feel, the more apt companies, individuals and government agencies are to spend time and money on tools to block worms, viruses and assorted malicious hacks.

This being the prevailing mindset, it is not entirely surprising that presenters at a security conference this week in San Francisco -- in addition to praising recent advancements in the field -- spent a good chunk of time pointing out why computer users should still be very much afraid.

Citing the proliferation of under-protected mobile data networks, the uptick in identity-theft crimes and the increasing complexity of government and corporate networks, speakers at the RSA Security Conference did much to create the impression of the Net as a still very insecure place.

"This is not something (where) we can merely put a fence around the borders," said Howard Schmidt, White House cybersecurity adviser and former chief security officer for Microsoft, who spoke Tuesday regarding the progress of the president's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace.

The strategy blueprint, adopted by the White House earlier this year, calls for greater cooperation between government and private industry "to protect against the debilitating disruption of information systems."

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