High-Tech Think Tank Formed

Tina Reilly
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Corporate America is sending out a message of tough love to the hacker community, which has been a thorn in the side of many technology companies and businesses in recent years as the intensity of virus attacks worsen.

On the heels of the 20-year anniversary of the computer virus, a consortium of high-level security officers was announced today to unify corporate America in its fight against hackers, and to share ideas and information on how corporations can keep their computer networks safe from the reach of the latest and deadliest viruses.

There are currently almost 60,000 viruses in existence, say reports. Every year since 2000 has been christened with some virulent code like the Love Bug, Nimda, Code Red, Sobig, Palyh, Slammer, and MSBlast that has gained worldwide notoriety for its capacity to create havoc across corporate and private computer networks.

The formation of the Global Council of CSOs (chief security officers) includes top brass from Oracle Corp, Microsoft Corp., MCI, eBay, Inc., Sun Microsystems, Motorola Inc., Bank of America, CitiGroup, and a representative from the New York State Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure.

"Hackers collude," said Mary Ann Davidson, chief security officer for Oracle. "They're very good at sharing information. We as an industry need to come together on the other side to strengthen our defenses."

The formation of the Council was brought to fruition by Howard Schmidt, formerly a security officer for Microsoft and then later a cyber-security advisor for the White House. He currently works for eBay.

One of Schmidt's goals was to unite the private and corporate sectors in a battle against cyber crime.

According to the plan set forth by Schmidt and other think tank organizers, the Global Council of CSOs will aim to share information with member companies and governments on cyber security issues and create a formidable defense against the ever-growing force and intelligence of the hacker community.

Additionally, the Council will provide feedback to technology vendors and consider how businesses can improve their networks to better guard against viruses.

The U.S. Government recently allocated additional funding to secure cyberspace from malicious attacks, including increased funding for research. But without the full cooperation of corporate America, the government's attempt to curb cyber crime has been stymied.

Microsoft's $5 million bounty offer last week for the arrest and conviction of virus writers indicates not just a uniform desire among corporations to squash this underground community of malicious code writers, but how much the business sector has suffered financially as a result of computer viruses, many of which exploit flaws in Microsoft's Windows operating system.

"It's now starting to move from being a problem that they used to hear anecdotally to a problem they can now measure the impact of," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions, an independent research firm.