Securing the Digital World

Guest Column: Symantec CEO John W. Thompson says that today's threats are more sophisticated, more aggressive, and spread faster than ever before, and that it is essential that we all act together to protect each other.

Technology is having a profound influence in ways that seemed almost impossible just 25 years ago. Today, businesses are leveraging the power of the Internet to penetrate new markets and reach new customers. Technology is improving the delivery of healthcare, as doctors use PDAs to view a patients vital signs, lab reports, or even prescribe medication. The digital, network-enabled home is also changing the image of "home sweet home," making it an extension of the wired world with central, Web-enabled command centers controlling many home functions.

However, while technology continues to create new opportunities for businesses and individuals, it has also created risk. Individuals and organizations are fending off an ever-increasing variety of Internet threats on a daily basis. In fact, more than 100 new viruses and nearly 60 new software vulnerabilities are discovered weekly. Symantecs most recent Internet Security Threat Report, the industrys most timely and comprehensive review of cyber security activity, documented a 19 percent increase in attack activity during the first half of 2003; thats almost one attack per day more for the average user. Also on the rise are blended threats - which combine hacking, denial of service, and worm-like propagation.


Todays threats are more sophisticated, more aggressive, and spread faster than ever before. Last summer, companies and individuals had to deal with four high-impact threats in the span of eight days. Attackers are also turning up the heat, as the time from discovery of a vulnerability to its exploit is rapidly shrinking. For example, the Slammer worm of January 2003 attacked a vulnerability that was discovered six months earlier; but the more recent Blaster worm exploited a vulnerability that was found just 26 days earlier.

At this critical juncture, it is essential that businesses and individuals collectively take action to protect cyber space. If not, the promise of a truly wired, connected world may never be realized.

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