Oracle's security guard

Tuesday, 8 July 2003, 9:16 AM EST

Mary Ann Davidson is one of the most nervous women in technology. And for good reason.

As Oracle's chief security officer, Davidson is where the proverbial buck stops when there's a security glitch in Oracle products or within the Redwood Shores tech company.

"I've had the CIOs of the Big Four paranoid agencies together," she said, illustrating the high stakes of some government customer meetings. "My biggest fear is that because of something I have failed to do, one of our customers will be at risk. Our customers have secrets and some are national secrets. All are precious."

Protecting data is nothing new, but the hyper-vigilant, zero-tolerance security breach attitude of major tech companies is. Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and others are pumping unprecedented amounts of cash and brain power to increase the security of their products and decrease the rate of break-ins, viruses and other liabilities.

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