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Ex-cybersecurity czar warns of threat to small businesses

Former cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt warned about the dangers to smaller businesses at a conference in Anaheim.

President Obama declared October National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and his former cybersecurity coordinator, Howard Schmidt, was just in Anaheim, speaking to a conference of IT security professionals.

Schmidt said every government agency now makes cybersecurity a high priority, and he says we should be thankful for that.

“Many of us don’t recognize that the vast majority of personal information out there on us is in the hands of the government, so there’s tremendous awareness and action by the part of the government to do a better job securing their systems,” Schmidt said. ”It’s going to take awhile though because these systems you don’t just turn them off and on and everything is all fixed.”

Schmidt was the keynote speaker at the 3rd annual ISSA conference, which brings together people who work in cybersecurity. There were representatives from the County of Los Angeles and companies including Time Warner Cable, Netflix and Hewlett-Packard.

However, Schmidt said he’s not worried about those big companies.

“They have invested heavily and will continue to do so in teams for security within their IT organization and executive branch,” Schmidt said. “But the small and medium size businesses that are biggest part of the workforce in the U.S. don’t have those same resources.”

Schmidt’s advice to those businesses: make security patches automatic and increase employee awareness.

And there's this piece of long-standing, common sense cyber security advice that works whether you're trying to protect a network of businesses computers or a laptop at home: if someone you don’t know emails you a file, don’t open it.