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CNN Today

Internet Security Systems Founder Offers Some Holiday E-mail Warnings

Aired December 21, 2000 - 2:50 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A nice little holiday greeting for you, and unfortunately now I have to throw cold water on that because we have to talk about holiday e-mail warnings, sorry to say.

And joining me to talk about this is Christopher Klaus. Christopher is the founder and chief technology officer of Internet Security Systems.

Hi, Christopher.

CHRISTOPHER KLAUS, INTERNET SECURITY SYSTEMS: Hi there. How are you doing?

ALLEN: Fine, thank you, What is up? I can't spread much holiday cheer on the Internet, we are told that, what, there is too many seasonal greetings being spread via e-mail?

KLAUS: Well, the problem is, what we are facing is there is a dramatic increase in a number of e-mail attachment, or e-greetings, where people are sending their Christmas cards to all their friends.

The problem with that is, while you may be getting a nice greetings card, a lot of the hacker community, and anti-virus, virus writers have come up with ways to attach to those greetings cards to install backdoors, Trojans, viruses, and actually, as you run this, you may be compromising yourself and on your computer from some potential risk on the Internet.

ALLEN: That's very bah humbug of those hackers, isn't it?

KLAUS: Absolutely.

ALLEN: What can people do to rectify the problem, maybe you just not open your e-mail greetings?

KLAUS: Well, I think there are several steps you can do -- you can -- when you do get an e-mail, you used to say: Don't open up e- mail from people you don't know. The problem is, a lot of the viruses that have been written actually take advantage of that by spreading themselves through your address book, so it's all your friends that are sending you the viruses in many cases.

So some of things that you can do, in regards to the e-greetings cards is check to see who the manufacturer of the e-greetings card is. For example, Excite's Blue Mountain or Yahoo!, a lot of these reputable on-line sites have set-up e-greetings capability. And before you run those, you may want to check and make sure it is coming from a reputable e-greetings site. And if you do get an e-greetings card from, say, one of your friends, you may to just call them up and say: Hey, I got this attachment, are you sure you want mow to open it or can I open it? And just verify that it's a Christmas card from that person.

ALLEN: So you could have problems not only with e-greetings you get from people you know, but from places you don't know as well?

KLAUS: Yeah, a lot of times we are seeing more and more e- greetings cards coming from not only your friends, but people you don't know, and definitely, I would urge caution in opening those up, making sure that you are not doing it from a machine that is sensitive.

If you are going to open it up, also make sure that you do have anti-virus and a good security system in place to check to make sure a back door does not get installed. It is a critical thing to make sure that, you know, someone is not going to break in and steal your financial information or other sensitive documents.

ALLEN: Are these problems that can be figured out before the next holiday season rolls around so more people don't have to worry about the dangers these e-greetings pose to their system?

KLAUS: I think, as companies are starting to look at this problem and see this is an issue, we will see more of them adopting, putting in a security system that looks at attachments that are coming in for the employees, making sure they don't have backdoors attached to them.

You know, I think this has been the stem of a lot of the recent problems with all the viruses. A lot of these companies don't have virus software, or anti-virus software, and in more and more, we are seeing more backdoors are being incorporated into the viruses. So I think next year, and throughout 2001, we will see an increase in people installing a good security system, and intrusion detection, to look for these attacks.

ALLEN: And do you know, Christopher, if e-greetings are becoming just wildly more popular this year?

KLAUS: Dramatically, there are a huge increase, about 50 percent of the users on the Internet have sent e-greetings or received e- greetings or more. And I think it is -- There is also another problem that I think large corporations that we are talking to are facing. Some of the e-greetings cards are becoming huge files with a lot of movies and pictures and movies. As this happens, and somebody takes this and e-mails, say, 100 employees, or 1,000 employees within a large company, you can actually crash the e-mail server because it gets overloaded with too much information.

So while the popularities are growing, the concern of the size of these cards are also a concern. So just by the very nature of how big they are. So one of the things is to limit how far and widespread you can send these, and also check to make sure the size of e-greetings card isn't too big, otherwise you might be crashing some of your friend's computers.

ALLEN: You might be doing more harm than good with your greeting. You may have to just use the old Hallmark card and the post office. Christopher Klaus, thanks so much, Christopher.

KLAUS: Thank you.

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