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Cyber-espionage is country's greatest threat, report says

Tuesday - 2/12/2013, 6:00am  ET

Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A national security document said to report a major cyber-espionage campaign underscores what security experts and political leaders have called this country's greatest threat.

A Washington Post article describes the work of hackers who target American businesses and institutions for economic advantage.

Sources told the paper the extent and seriousness of these efforts appear in the National Intelligence Estimate.

But if hackers thousands of miles away can crack carefully coded networks, this report may serve as a reminder about personal cyber vulnerabilities.

"It's a real threat," says Alan Carswell, chair of cybersecurity and information assurance at University of Maryland University College.

"There are real consequences even though we're talking about virtual space."

On phones and tablets, it's become commonplace to pay bills, store personal photos and look for a date.

"There's an army of hackers out there, individuals to state-sponsored hackers," says Carswell.

One of the most common ways people become victims is through emails purporting to be from banks or financial centers.

Instead, those emails lure people to phony sites to steal their personal account information.

Carswell says using free public Wi-Fi connections also can expose users to hackers. Occasionally, networks are designed for that very purpose.

"You see this Internet connection that's set up, that's available and it's free," he says.

"You get onto the network, and it was actually set up by a hacker."

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