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Coalition warns of cyberthreats

A computer security group announces a six-month education campaign to warn U.S. firms against "cyberthreats."

A group of computer security companies today announced an initiative for a six-month education campaign to warn U.S. firms against "cyberthreats."

Dubbed the Manhattan Cyber Project, the initiative responds to concerns that U.S. businesses and the nation's infrastructure are threatened by people using computers to steal trade secrets or disrupt operations. The project will hold about 40 low-cost, two-day seminars on computer and network security at locations around the country.

"It's a simple effort but a daunting task," said project director Mark Gembicki, executive vice president of WarRoom Research, a security consulting firm. "We contend that a lot of the threat is not to our critical infrastructure but to corporate America, companies that cannot compete because they cannot protect themselves in cyberspace."

He cited a study by his firm last year that found 58 percent of U.S. companies surveyed had experienced an attempted intrusion of their computer systems from the outside. Another 30 percent said they didn't know if they had been attacked.

The project already has signed on IBM, Bell Atlantic Federal Systems, Ernst & Young, Georgia Tech Research Institute, security consultancy WheelGroup, network security firms Axent Technologies, and Security Dynamics.

Representatives from banking, utilities, airlines, and a law firm will be added, Gembicki said. He also would like companies in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and petroleum to join, as they are often targets of industrial espionage.

Manhattan Cyber Project will gather information on cyberthreats, and provide education programs and training to corporations, government, and educational organizations.

Its findings on protecting the infrastructure and boosting corporate competitiveness will be turned over to Congress.

Supported by private funding, the project aims to recruit both money and volunteer efforts from a list of 200-plus U.S. firms. Manhattan Cyber Project is seeking to work with the Infrastructure Protection Task Force, a presidential commission charged with protecting the nation's infrastructure.

After six months, the Manhattan Cyber Project aims to create a nonprofit Cyberspace Research and Education Center to continue its work.