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Press Release

Chriss Swaney
Carnegie Mellon

Tricia Lehman
Select Committee on Information Security

For immediate release:
October 4, 2005

Carnegie Mellon CyLab Researchers Join the Select Committee on Information Security for a Briefing about the Challenges of Identity Theft

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon CyLab researchers will join state Rep. Bob Flick (R-Chester County) in a briefing from 3 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 5 at the university's Collaborative Innovative Center to discuss the challenges of protecting consumers from cybercriminals.

"The growing complexity of the Internet is forcing dramatic changes in the way we secure information," said Pradeep K. Khosla, dean of Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering and co-director of Carnegie Mellon CyLab. "Our researchers are creating tools that will ultimately help detect menacing malicious code. We applaud this new open forum for candid security discussions on info security."

The briefing is part of a series of statewide meetings sponsored by the Select Committee on Information Security, which is chaired by Rep. Flick.

Flick, who launched the select committee last month, said the committee must evaluate current laws pertaining to identity theft and privacy and seek the best practices for protecting all personal and sensitive information.

The briefing will feature two panel discussions ranging from talks about the technical and policy challenges of privacy to the economics of privacy. Panel sessions will be moderated by Don McGillen, executive director of Carnegie Mellon CyLab, a university-wide, multidisciplinary initiative that builds on more than two decades of Carnegie Mellon's leadership in information technology.

"Internet users are told that they need to install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, spam filters, follow all sorts of security rules and come up with complicated passwords that they are not supposed to write down. Users are feeling overwhelmed, and we need to find ways of helping people feel safe," said Lorrie Cranor, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon CyLab and the Institute for Software Research International. In addition to Cranor, a handful of Carnegie Mellon CyLab researchers will discuss the challenges of remaining cybersafe.

More than 10 million consumers are victimized by identity thieves each year, causing more than $55 billion in losses to consumers, businesses and government entities nationwide, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And much of the theft comes from hackers adept at cracking fancy encryption algorithms.

Encryption algorithms—the mathematical rules by which secret codes are made and broken—have been the center of a simmering debate since the early 1990s. This technology is controlled through laws originally passed to regulate munitions. Cybercriminals want to get hold of this encryption technology that is so powerful that even IRS supercomputers can't crack it.

"We owe it to the people of Pennsylvania to have measures in place to assure them that their personal and private information held by the state and its agencies, including social security numbers, birth certificates, health records and driving licenses, are protected," Flick said.

During the next several months, the select committee will hold hearings and take testimony from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, the Pennsylvania State Police, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspectors, the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission.


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