Companies outline efforts to practice, preach cybersecurity

Executives from companies in the Internet Security Alliance (ISA) on Monday outlined their efforts to bolster cybersecurity and privacy as the number of computer attacks continues to rise.

At a congressional briefing, executives from AIG Cyber Insurance, Nortel Networks, Verizon Communications and Visa all outlined how they are encouraging cybersecurity while also educating lawmakers on the need for the government to urge companies and individuals to invest in cybersecurity.

"A role the government can play is in public awareness," said Larry Clinton, deputy executive director of the ISA, which is managed by the Electronic Industries Alliance. "Consumers need to develop sensibility" to cybersecurity.

The Bush administration's strategy to protect cyberspace notes that because 85 percent to 90 percent of the nation's computer networks are privately held, the private sector will play a large role in protecting computer networks.

Ty Sagalow, executive vice president and chief operating officer at AIG Cyber Insurance, explained how his company has been providing incentives for firms to increase cybersecurity. He said companies that are interested in purchasing cyber insurance first must subject their security programs to thorough examination by independent teams of cyber experts.

The teams produce 25-page reports for the companies and recommend ways to improve security. Each company also receives a grade, and then AIG determines what types of insurance to provide and at what cost. Sagalow said 75 percent of companies that seek insurance do purchase some type of it from AIG.

Sagalow also said AIG provides insurance discounts for companies that follow ISA's "best practices" for cyber protection, and for purchasing certain types of technologies and equipment.

Rod Wallace, director of network security at Nortel Networks, said his company requires all its vendors to meet cyber-security requirements. And Linc Howell, Verizon Communications' assistant vice president for Internet technology policy, said his company provides packages of cyber-security protection for its high-speed Internet users.

Mark MacCarthy, Visa's senior vice president for public policy, said his company requires all of the top 100 e-commerce destinations on the Internet to follow Visa's privacy and cyber-security guidelines if they plan to use Visa's financial system. The company also requires that of smaller companies in the United States and has begun the program in the European Union.

MacCarthy said that now almost all 100 of the e-commerce sites follow Visa's rules on protecting consumers' Visa numbers.

All the panelists agreed that the best thing the government could do is highlight the need for cybersecurity.

AIG's Sagalow said that some companies also would like Congress to revisit the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) again to strengthen the exemption from the law for companies that voluntarily provide information on critical infrastructure protection information to the government. The FOIA exemption in the 2002 law that created the Homeland Security Department did not go far enough, they argue.