Protecting computer data from hackers focus of Aurora forum
By David Sharos
Protecting computer data and consumer information from hackers was the focus of a panel discussion Tuesday in Aurora.
The event, hosted by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville), included a panel of representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the Computing Technology Industry Association, ByteGrid, the KCT Credit Union, Waubonsee Community College and the federal Homeland Security Department.
"We've worked with the congressman before and his help has been tremendous," Bill Winsininski, vice president and general manager of ByteGrid said. ByteGrid is a national technology company with a location in Aurora. "We reached out about a month ago in hopes of getting this organized and we try to offer something every month where we can provide a learning environment where people can engage locally, statewide and nationally about how cyber security impacts us."
Foster said he saw the panel discussion "as an opportunity to make businesses successful" despite inherent risks.
"With the technological advances, these new opportunities come with new risks from hackers," Foster warned. "We need to protect long-term business relationships."
Bill Hodor, a staff attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, said since 2002, the FTC has dealt with 53 cases involving data security breaches.
"Our job is to promote civil law enforcement in the private and business sector, and in 2012 alone, 16.6 million people 16 years of age and older were victims of identity theft, which is about 7 percent of the population – so the threats out there are real," Hodor said. "Just because a company has been hacked doesn't mean it's bad. Our guidelines involve what we regard as reasonable safeguards."
Hodor spoke about information offered by the FTC that includes guidelines for businesses, including using, storing, and disposing of information.
"Our guidelines offer a common sense approach, but it should be noted this is not a 'one size fits all' solution," he said.
Sean McCloskey, from the Department of Homeland Security, said resources for small and mid-size businesses including assessment and training concerning data security are available through his department.
"There definitely has been an increase in cyber-related issues, given the growth of the Internet," McCloskey said. "We offer a cyber security advisory program and work weekly with businesses."
Teachers like Namrata Pandya of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora and her students were lured to the panel discussion "in order to get a more hands-on application, rather than just class theory."
"I teach computer science and math, and we offer a computer seminar course and I thought it would be good for students to learn about how business people feel and the decisions that are made," Pandya said. "This gives students a look at real problems – not just case studies."
Drake Eidukas, 17, of Lake in the Hills, said his studies at the Mathematics and Science Academy have included looking at his own Facebook page to see how accessible personal information might be.
"I feel cyber security is a business problem in terms of keeping up-to-date, but also consumers need to take a role," he said. "Too often, businesses ask for sensitive information, and people just sign up without really looking into what they are giving away."
Businessman Ken Johnson, director of marketing for K-Rise Systems in Aurora, said he wanted to attend the panel discussion because of a new credit card product his company has produced.
"I wanted to meet people here and do some networking, as well as see how our new EZ pay card fits in with security concerns," Johnson said. "Companies need to stay accountable and involved."
David Sharos is a freelance writer for The Beacon-News
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