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Corporate Responsibility in Action

Cyber Security: The Road to Security Begins with Personal Responsibility

Created: 01 Jun 2010 • Updated: 01 Jun 2010 • 9 comments
lora_phillips's picture
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By Adam Palmer,Lead Cyber Security Advisor for Symantec's Norton-brand products.

Sitting at your desktop, smart phone, or tablet computer, it’s easy to forget that your individual device is part of a network eco-system. The illusion of individuality on the Internet creates the false perception that individual actions will not impact the larger network. This is, of course, not reality. The Internet is an eco-system. One infected part affects the health and functioning of the entire body.

Who is responsible for the security of the Internet? Is it governments, security companies, the military, individual users? All of the above?

Securing the Internet cannot be outsourced, ignored or forgotten. It is the responsibility of every user of every type. We now live in a connected world in which industry, government, and consumers share the same communications channels. In essence, we are all in this together. One person’s lack of responsibility not only harms that individual but provides a platform for other innocent users to be attacked.

For several years while I worked as both a prosecutor and as the Legal Director for The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, I heard a troubling comment. I heard the statement that a few companies did not want to find evidence of Internet crimes against children on their systems because, once found, it would then be their burden to do something about it. This argument is not only legally flawed but a frightening view towards corporate citizenship. 

In response to my concerns, I published an article in 2008 entitled “Protecting Children Online: Where Corporate Responsibility is just Good Business” that outlined the case for corporations to actively protect kids online. I believe that the majority of companies today recognize the need for responsibility in addressing cyber crimes against children; however, consumer cyber fraud seems to now be suffering the same lack of understanding that once plagued efforts to stop internet crimes against children.

There are still over a million computer systems believed to be infected with the Conficker worm. This is despite the fact that a security patch against Conficker is easy to obtain and install. Conficker-infected computers have the potential to be controlled by unknown criminal gangs to launch malicious attacks against other Internet users. This is unacceptable. Individual users must take personal responsibility to secure their systems. 

In many areas of our lives we have learned to take personal responsibility and have come to understand the effect of our actions on others with whom we share the same environment. People today are more aware about the impact of pollution on the environment and drivers know they risk the lives of innocent people when they drive intoxicated. Individuals who carelessly litter or drive drunk experience well-deserved community shame and disapproval. Their irresponsibility causes problems in the community that we all share. As we enjoy the Internet  and appreciate the benefits it brings to our lives, we need to also remember that this is part of the sensitive environment we all share. Security starts with each individual user's responsible behavior in the cyber world. 

 We will have a much safer cyber world if those users who ignore security feel the same community pressure we apply to irresponsible behavior in the physical world. Keeping cyber space safe starts with improving the individual responsibility of each Internet user.

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dlinford's picture

I love this idea of Digital Citizenship.  Like a small community where everyone looks after everyone.  It's a new world though and with anonymity if is difficult to shame poor citizens into good behavior.  This false sense of anonymity is both a strength and a weakness of our new digital world.

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Adam's comments reflect the direction in which we hope to see the education community turn, getting all users (students and faculty alike) to take responsibility for security. The next generation simply cannot coast, relying on a few geeks to keep the Internet up and running: security is "the responsibility of every user of every type." 

Security training can begin early in schools, bringing teachers up to speed on their own school's/district's security mechanisms and policies, helping them communicate to teens that their computer's security is even more essential than its power cord. When families, teachers, even administrators take seriously their contribution to security, it will filter down to the next generation of users. 

Marsali Hancock,

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lora_phillips's picture

dlinford, I think you hit it right on the mark when you refer to it as a "false" sense of anonymity. Efforts to educate children at a young age will hopefully help to turn the tide in the future, and Symantec partners with nonprofit organizations to hopefully help with this effort. But we also need to focus on the growing numbers of adults utilizing the web more and more. Facebook reports that the 55+ audience grew over 922% in 2009! How do we reach/educate these users?

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Stay Safe Online's picture

The Internet and our digital assets are a shared resource and protecting it is a shared responsibilty. We all benefit from the powerful tools online that allow us to communicate, create content, connnect, and conduct commerce. In the end, we are only as strong as the weakest link on any network. That is why we all must do our part and secure the technolgy we use to protect the networks we connect to. This "joint" ownership is something we need to teach young people from an early age. In the same way young people have become champions of clean air and water, they can take up the cause of a safe and secure Internet. And we all know how much young people can influence the adults in their lives to do the right thing.

Michael Kaiser
Executive Director
National Cyber Secuirty Alliance

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deepak.vasudevan's picture

HI Mike,

I would like to extend your suggestion a bit. When we get a spam or other junk email we should not leave by just discarding/trashing it. Taking a little more by reporting it to the apporpriate ISP and bringing down such accounts and/or websites would be a deterrent act on others who want to involve in such mischeifs.

Precisely I campaign 'active participation' instead of just a passive audience.

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deepak.vasudevan's picture

The moment you get a new PC setup I would suggest the following tools to be loaded before you switch on the modem to go online:

  1. Get the Antivirus Protection on. If you are to download it, your preferred AV should be the first homepage that your browser should navigate from that PC.
  2. Internet Security Tools. As a personal preference I normally load the following tools: (1) Spyware Terminator (2) Web Security Guard (3) K9 BlueCoat Protection

It is better to be proactive and preventive before some bad hacker sabotages our hard work.

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arjain's picture

should we promote digital signatures?  As most ot time we are connected through emails.
Also, we care of firewalls / AV in our PC but most users including me :) do not have any AV in mobile devices even though we check emails and do browsing from them.

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deepak.vasudevan's picture

>>should we promote digital signatures? 
I think there are hosted solutions like echosign coming up to fill this gap too.smiley

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milenar258's picture

Dear all,

I would like to invite you to the coming event. I would appreciate your consideration to attend the event happening on May 6, from 9 AM - 3 PM at San Jose Marriott hotel (301 S Market St  San Jose, CA 95113) where Libyan government and private sector buyers will be identifying partners and technology for IT and CyberSecurity projects.

Below is the agenda for the event.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Milena Ristovska

Contact: Kathy Hopsmith @


April 29 - May 8, 2013

Organized by the National U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce


8:00 AM – 9:00 AM          Registration & Coffee

9:00 AM – 9:10 AM          Welcome Remarks

•             Carl B. Kress, Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Eurasia, USTDA

•             David Hamod, President & CEO, National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce

9:10 AM – 9:40 AM          Overview of Libya’s ICT Sector

•             H.E. Mohamed Ali Abdou Allah, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Communications & Informatics

9:40 AM – 10:20 AM        Libyan Delegation Presentations: Part 1

•             Ministry of Communications & Informatics

Esam Abulkhirat, Acting Director, Information Security Department

•             National Information Security and Safety Authority

Dr. Ezidin Barka, General Director

•             Central Bank of Libya

Emad Sherif, Information Security Team Leader and

Mourad El Mabrouk, Application Analyst and Internet Banking Team Leader

•             General Information Authority

Dr. Abdurraouf Ali El Bibas, Chairman of the Management Committee

10:20 AM – 10:30 AM     Question & Answer Period

10:30 AM – 10:50 AM     Networking & Coffee Break

10:50 AM – 11:30 AM     Libyan Delegation Presentations: Part 2

•             Libyan Post Telecommunication and Information Technology

Khaled Gamo, Technology Division Manager

•             Almotkaml Company

Khaled Mohamed Fellah, General Manager

•             Awal IT Company Specialized & Interactive Systems

Khaled El Osta, General Manager/Manager

•             Tripoli For Information Technology

Ahmed Swayeh, Business Development Manager

11:30 AM – 11:40 AM     Question & Answer Period

11:40 AM – 12:20 PM      National Export Initiative Panel

•             USTDA

Carl B. Kress, Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Eurasia

•             San Jose (Silicon Valley) Export Assistance Center

Aileen Nandi, Commercial Officer

•             U.S. Embassy in Libya

Mohamed Shwehdi, Commercial Specialist

12:20 PM – 1:20 PM        Lunch

1:20 PM – 5:00 PM           B2B Matchmaking Session

U.S. Company Meetings -Advance Background Information-1.doc 2.58 MB
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