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A Sober Internet World

Tech: Trade show's focus on security issues reflects industry's lowered expectations.

April 24, 2002|DAVID COLKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Once the giddy jamboree of the dot-com craze, Internet World opens its doors today at the Los Angeles Convention Center with a topic capitalizing on post-Sept. 11 concerns.

The theme of "Security Matters" covers topics such as "Cyber-Terrorism," "The Top 10 Hacking Techniques" and "Security Trends."

A focus on a hot information topic--rather than the sheer frenzy of the Internet explosion that permeated the event in the late 1990s--is Internet World's attempt to adapt to diminished expectations. Attendance this year is projected to be well below half the 50,000 of 1997 as tech trade shows overall have sagged.

"It's turning lemons into lemonade," said Courtney Muller, vice president of Internet World events, about the choice of security as the main topic in the wake of September's terrorist attacks. "We took a bad situation and tried to provide people with the information they need on the situation."

Although the public can at no charge visit the exhibit floor--featuring booths from 150 companies, ranging from industry giants such as America Online Inc. to boutique firms--most of the security-themed events will take place during the show's conference portion.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 25, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Internet trade show--A story in Wednesday's Business section misstated the admission policy of the Internet World trade show. Admission to exhibits at the Los Angeles Convention Center is free only with a coupon from www.internetworld.com/events/spring2002/register.php.

This morning's lectures will, in the spirit of trade shows, have to be taken with a large grain of salt. Most of the presenters on security matters sell security equipment, software or consulting services. It's not to their advantage to downplay potential security problems.

"It is not just the main systems that are quite vulnerable," said Tom Haigh, chief technology officer of Secure Computing Corp., which sells firewalls and other Internet security products. He will be giving the "Cyber-Terrorism" lecture.

"If someone got into the [Federal Aviation Administration] air traffic control system, that could be a huge disaster. But there are fringe systems, too, like the ones that schedule fueling or scheduling the airplanes. A disruption in the morning in Chicago could affect the whole country by the afternoon."

But the only example Haigh could cite of real-world, politically motivated cyber-terrorism was an attempt to enter Defense Department systems last year in connection with continuing tension in the Balkans. Haigh said he could not elaborate because of security concerns.

If only one such attack has occurred, why the huge emphasis on security?

"The fact that there has not been a big disaster does not mean there will not be one," Haigh said.

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