Fewer connections could limit cyber attacks, agency official says

A Justice Department cyber-security official on Wednesday touted the government's strategy of reducing its number of Internet connections to 50 by June in order to reduce cyber vulnerabilities.

The government's "Trusted Internet Connections" initiative, which was announced last month, will help protect information by shrinking the attack surface area -- or the number of access gateways that must be monitored, Mischel Kwon, the department's chief information technology security specialist, told a group of federal government IT professionals.

"This is an absolutely great, great program," Kwon said.

She said the effort cuts to the core of today's cyber-security problem: The basic threats are the same as they were in 2001, but the maneuvers are easier and more widespread. Kwon told the Association for Federal Information Resources Management that the threats are still hackers, "hacktivists," industrial spies, organized crime groups, terrorists and national governments.

But now, the fraudsters can easily create Internet viruses by reading how-to lessons on the Internet itself, said Kwon, who runs Justice's cyber-defense operation.

The most popular attack right now, she said, is "in by e-mail, out by Web." The culprits send a message embedded with a link, and then dupe the victim into clicking on the link to go to a separate Web page where they enter sensitive information or download malevolent software.

Once the exercise is complete, the intruder can enter the victims' networks, and "we're all in business," Kwon said.

She warned the audience not to assume that all such "phishing" e-mail messages have a misspelling "because it will fool everyone."

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