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Phoenix protecting residents' online information through education

PHOENIX -- The city of Phoenix protects citizens' online information by providing education through information security speakers, presentations and an award-winning website.

Senior Security Engineer Ilene Klein assists Chief of Information Security Randell Smith in passing information security knowledge onto the citizens of Phoenix by writing articles for the Information Security and Privacy Office's "Best of The Web" award-winning website, phoenix.gov/infosec.

"The largest thing we do [to assist citizens] is maintain our own website," she said. "We post information at least monthly, usually more frequently than that."

Klein explained how the city also sponsors presentations and sends certified speakers to talk to schools or any other organizations that may need assistance protecting online information whenever they are requested.

"For the past year or so we have been giving quarterly presentations to the public on social media security," she said. "We [recently] spoke to a mothers group, Moms Next...about cyberbullying."

At a January presentation, "Data Privacy: Hackers and Headlines," Klein discussed various tools that hackers and security breachers use, such as the software responsible for the 2013 Target credit card information breach.

Malicious malware, Kaptoxa/BlackPOS, the same software used in the Target breech, can be purchased illegally by anyone for $1,800 to $2,300, Klein said.

Another issue Klein discussed at the January meeting was the questionable ethics of data brokers, companies that track what consumers do and sells that information to other companies.

"Brokers are amassing a huge amount of detailed private data on consumers without their knowledge," she said.

Data brokers are legally able to collect this information because according to Klein, in the United States, whoever collects information legally owns that data.

The city plans to improve its quarterly presentations by expanding on subjects such as basic home computer protection, mobile phone security, banking information protection and other types of online information, Klein said.

Arizona was listed a hot bed of cyber-crime, primarily due to a card-processing data breach in 2009. Heartland Payment Systems, the card processing company that was breached, was employed by the Arizona State Credit Union as well as over 600 other banks and credit unions around the country, according to bankinfosecurity.com.

Since the 2009 breach, several Arizona agencies suffered similar data breaches. Attorney Cynthia Brubaker, who has dealt with cybercrime in the past, explained that it has become infrequent within the last few years.

"I don't really see them very frequently actually," Brubaker said. "The [cybercrimes] that I've had usually involved computers to commit fraud or they involve crimes that involve that involve computer downloads."

Brubaker believes that the city's efforts in educating its citizens is a productive step, as it helps citizens to be aware of looming threats and as to the possible illegal dangers of their own actions.

"I think much more education needs to be given because people don't have any idea what they are doing," Brubaker said. "They don't realize they could be involved in criminal conduct."

Security enthusiast Russell Crane believes that finding the correct way to educate citizens will be the most efficient way to keep them protected.

"The easiest way for a person to learn how to use their own computer would be to learn at their own computer or at a public library," he said.

One method Crane suggested involved local cable companies coming together to spread information to their customers on a wide-scale level.

"I think the best thing to do would get the local cable networks and have step by step series of how to protect yourself online," he said. "You just need to be informed and the problem is not all information propagation methods work for everybody."

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