Businesses are on notice to pay more attention to computer security in order to protect business assets and private information, and to thwart infiltrations that threaten interconnected computers.  And help is available from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (“US-CERT”).

Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Secretary Michael Chertoff and Assistant Secretary of Cybersecurity Greg Garcia recently warned that an uptick in cyber attacks  reveal a growing threat to critical U.S. infrastructure and private networks. Garcia warned that hackers “are making massive efforts to compromise computer systems on a global scale,” a reference to the fifty percent in crease in cyber-attacks between 2006 and 2007.  Chertoff called upon businesses to help protect networks and infrastructure from infiltration and data theft.  Secretary Chertoff remarked, “There’s no question this is the vulnerability of the 21st century.”

These comments came on the heals of a growing number of reported cyber incidents, including one recent attack on a U.S. federal nuclear weapons laboratory. According to the New York Times, “an unknown group of attackers sent targeted e-mail messages to roughly 1,100 [laboratory] employees,” and “about 11 staff opened the attachments, which enabled the hackers to infiltrate the system and remove data.” The New York Times article also reported that the US-CERT issued an advisory notice stating that “the level of sophistication and the scope of these cyber security incidents indicate that they are coordinated and targeted at private sector systems.”

Many attacks come in the form of infected e-mails and e-mail attachments – namely Trojan e-mails, which use seemingly harmless files to gain access to unauthorized information. Once a network user is compromised, an attacker can infect other areas of the network and remotely collect sensitive data such as usernames and passwords. US-CERT also warns that attackers manipulate innocent and unknowing websites to link users to other malicious sites that can then provide the attackers with access to restricted data.

Currently, DHS and US-CERT provide information to businesses regarding cyber threats such as suspect Internet signatures. Such signatures should be added to Intrusion Device Systems or other detection  to prevent attacks. DHS and US-CERT also recommend that network users take extreme caution when dealing with unsolicited e-mails, particularly e-mails with suspicious attachments or links.