In the last few years, cyberattacks have evolved from annoyances to incidents having serious economic consequences.

• Sony is estimated to have lost nearly $200 million from cyberattacks launched on it by the hacker group Anonymous.

• A small business in the South Bay is embroiled in a lawsuit with its bank over who’s responsible for a $400,000 online bank fraud committed by a cybercriminal halfway around the world.

• An online retailer in Venice had its website broken into by cyberthieves who stole customer credit card numbers.

• A downtown L.A. apparel company found a competitor had hacked into its computers and was stealing sensitive pricing information.

• A manufacturing company in East Los Angeles spent more than six months and countless thousands of dollars in an extensive Federal Trade Commission inquiry after the inadvertent disclosure of employee Social Security numbers.

Cyberthreats are real and all around us. Cybercriminals want our credit cards, bank account numbers, intellectual property and identities. Even our children are at risk from sexual predators who troll the Internet.

The most important step in meeting the challenge of cybersecurity is to raise executive awareness. If our business and community leaders – the men and women who run our businesses, not-for-profits and government organizations – know what’s going on and what they need to do about it, they can manage their organization’s cybersecurity challenge. Right now, the overwhelming vast majority are playing Russian roulette.

That’s why our organization – the Los Angeles Chapter of the Information Systems Security Association– has made executive awareness a key pillar of our community outreach program.

Founded in Los Angeles more than 25 years ago, the ISSA is the largest international, not-for-profit professional association in the information security community. ISSA has more than 140 chapters, reaching more than 10,000 security professionals in 70 countries. In December 2009, ISSA International Board President Howard Schmidt became President Obama’s White House cybersecurity coordinator.

ISSA-LA is not acting alone. Los Angeles is fortunate in having a growing hub of cybersecurity talent and expertise on which executives can rely.

In addition to ISSA-LA, several other professional associations are committed to providing cybersecurity leadership to our community. These include the L.A. chapters of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, the FBI’s infraGARD program and the Open Web Application Security Project.

L.A.’s Electronic Crimes Task Force is made up of representatives of the Secret Service, FBI, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol and the District Attorney’s Office. The task force not only investigates electronic crimes in Los Angeles but, like our security associations, provides awareness training and education, particularly in critical infrastructure industries like food, water, power and financial services.

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