I wasn't surprised when I heard that Fox Television was upgrading its internet security measures. But when I heard that a company here in the East Valley was providing the security upgrades, well, that certainly got my attention.
As you can imagine, the Fox TV empire entails a lot of different Web sites, including foxnews.com, americanidol.com and foxsports.com - just three of its nationally branded Web portals - and this doesn't even begin to account for the online homes of the many local Fox broadcast television outlets - such as the Valley's KSAZ-TV (Channel 10) - located around the country.
It's kind of "inside baseball" to keep track of this stuff, but I'm in the media biz, so I like following this sort of news. But I was really intrigued when I learned that Gilbert-based Live Square Inc. is helping to secure an entire media empire, and that's when I began to snoop around and ask questions about this hometown business that most people have never heard about.
I also found out that Live Square provides Web site security to the Arizona Border Collie Rescue Shelter, a local non-profit organization. And that got me even more intrigued. Could it be that an L.A.- and New York-based media empire such as Fox would have the same internet security concerns as a local animal rescue and shelter organization?
"Absolutely they do," said Brett Scott, Gilbert resident and chief technology officer of Live Square. "When most attacks are emanating from automated software, it really doesn't matter who you are or what your organization is about. There really isn't any specific targeting when the attacks are automated, either. The are simply computers around the world that are just searching for other systems that are vulnerable."
But vulnerable to what, I wondered. "Any exploitable hole in the software, or in the operating system, or in the hardware of your computer, can be vulnerable to the insertion of malicious software," Scott told me. "This type of software allows an attacker to interact with your computer, and run programs on your computer without you knowing it. This can produce many different types of negative consequences, from attackers lifting sensitive information from your personal computer, to corporations having sensitive data stolen by their competitors, to organizations big and small having unauthorized data placed on their Web sites. We specialize in securing computers, networks and Web sites, within organizations big and small."
But how bad do these "Internet attacks" become? And when does anyone call a company like Live Square?
"We intervened in a situation where one of our clients had all their computerized data - all their product research, customer data base, employee information and so forth - stolen and sold on the international black market," Scott said. "Worse yet, the company's backup files were compromised as well. We managed to help this company regroup and build a firewall so as to prevent a similar attack in the future, but the attack was incredibly costly."
Scott claims that law enforcement in the U.S. and elsewhere simply can't keep pace with the ever-expanding rate of cybercrime. His recommendations for both private individuals and businesses are sobering.
"If you are a business owner, focus on security in every aspect of your technology purchases," he said. "If you are a manager, make sure your staff is trained on security and make sure your IT department implements security. And as for private individuals, it's important to remember that the Internet is the toughest neighborhood in the world. We all need to behave as though we're living in a very rough neighborhood."
You may not work for a media empire, or run an animal rescue organization. But if you do any navigating on the Internet, heeding Scott's warnings might save you a lot of trouble down the line.
Austin Hill of Gilbert is a host for Arizona Web TV (www.Arizonawebtv.com) and is heard on XM Satellite Radio. He is co-author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book of Weird Presidential History," and is an editorialist for the national news and commentary site Townhall.com. Contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.