The 3-minute interview with Richard Stiennon

The chief marketing officer for Fortinet, a Sunnyvale-based network security firm, is a self-described “security evangelist,” warning Internet users about the dangers of cybercrime. He has also worked as an analyst for Gartner Inc. and as a “white hat” hacker for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

What does a “security evangelist” do? I basically seek to educate the world as to the threats that are out there. It would keep people awake at night if they knew what we know.

So what should people know? First is the dedication and motivation behind cybercriminal activities. Somebody sitting in a small village in Romania can make several thousand [dollars] a month through phishing attacks, several hundred times more than the average earnings of someone in one of these villages. There’s hardly any downside for them, and there’s no jurisdiction to stop what they are doing.

What kind of attacks will people see during the holiday season? They’ll get last-minute offers that say you have to act now, offers to purchase the hottest, hardest-to-find items. So you go to the Web site and give them your credit card information and you’ve just given them everything in your bank. There’s also been a [Trojan-horse scam] lately, called the storm Trojan. It’s been taking over [computers] and then going quiet, and nobody knows what it’s for right now. Even when it attacks, you might not know.

What should consumers do to protect themselves? Be paranoid and assume the bad guys are out there. If you get an e-mail, even if it appears to be from a friend, don’t click through and don’t purchase. Never send money, period.


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