Mark E.S. Bernard Profiles in Leadership

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Mark E.S. Bernard Profiles in Leadership

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Mark E.S. Bernard Profiles in Leadership

  1. 1. Wednesday, January 5, 2005 New Brunswick Weather Log In Change Password NB Telegraph-Journal | Profiles As published on page A4 on December 15, 2003 Profiles in leadership MARK BERNARD owns the Hartland-based Apollo Computer Consultants Inc., a computer security company he launched in Ontario in 1998 but recently restarted in New Brunswick after working at McCain Foods for two and a half years. He is also vice-president and founder of the High Tech Crime Investigative Association in New Brunswick, a group of industry experts and police officers keeping an eye on cyber crime and online security issues. Originally from Salisbury, just outside Moncton, Mr. Bernard and his wife Sharon also have two small children, Joshua and Sara. He spoke recently with Telegraph-Journal reporter SARAH McGINNIS. Consultants Inc., a computer security company he launched in You have been described as one of the province's leading experts in computer viruses, identity theft and online security. How would you describe yourself professionally? A: I would describe myself as a specialist. I wouldn't use the term expert because I don't believe there are any true experts. Certainly I do know a lot about a lot of things and that makes me pretty specialized. Q: Why do you say there are no true experts? A: Well, because things change so rapidly. You look at people who spend their whole lives doing research on one subject and they generally are very focused on that one subject whereas someone like myself has a very broad- based experience. I know where to get the expert opinions if I need them. People who are focusing on network security or people focussing on Unix or something like that I can go and get that information. I don't think any one person can ever know everything about everything. Q: How would you describe yourself personally? A: I would describe myself as a self-made man who has re-invented himself a couple of times. As you know, I am a native New Brunswicker and I started out when I graduated high school working in the hospitality business. I went to Toronto to find work and worked in hospitality for about six months and realized I would never make it in the hospitality business. You don't get ahead so to speak. So I said I need a change. So I took a temp job at Tosi and got a job sending telegrams for Zurich Insurance company. The CEO's secretary noticed what an excellent job I was doing. Of course at that time they didn't have fax machines. This was back in 1988 and 89 and if you wanted to send a reassurance contract, like, for instance, when they were building the Skydome, Zurich was providing the insurance on the Skydome. So, you have these $400 million dollar contracts that were about 40 pages and with the telex machine you had to type in every page word for word. It's not scan and send, it's type. It doesn't have memory so if you didn't get a connection to download to the other side you lost it. I worked at it for a few months sending contracts and they offered me a job at payroll. So, I went to work at corporate payroll for six months and an opportunity came open to move over to the systems area of the HRS centre. So, I moved over there and a few months after that they got approval for a new project to install a new payroll resource system. The project was worth about $1.3 million and $40,000 of that was dedicated to me to send me away for six months to make me a specialist. So, when it comes to AS 400 systems I guess you can say I am an expert. It's pretty modern. There's about 800 servers installed around the world and one of my jobs was to go and do compliance checks for U.S. offshore banks located in Bermuda, Trinidad and around the Keys Jamaica. Q: What is it about computers that fascinates you? A: I think computers are the ultimate intellectual stimulate. For people who like challenges and like to deal with systems that can perform thousands of computations and manipulate data it's the ultimate challenge. It is so powerful. Our world is also becoming so integrated with computers. I think it is a requirement for people to do as much as they can, even if it is only a little bit, to get familiar with computers because they are going to become more and more important. Q: What kind of computer do you have? A: I have an old Compact 1.8 gig Intel chip. Old really. Q: It is funny you call that old where my computer is seven years old and only running Windows 95. A: Risk. Risk. Q: Why do you say that? Why do you say risk? A: That's my information security side kicking in, evaluating risk. If you look at older systems it's not just the chip necessarily that's the risk or the hardware, it's the software. With Windows there's lots of flaws as we all know about. With the older systems if they haven't been kept up to par with security patches they're quite vulnerable. Some of them are more vulnerable than a security patch can possibly fix. Q: This year we have had a number of powerful viruses hit one after another. How much damage can a virus do to companies both small and large? A: Viruses are definitely a problem. Right now service attacks are the most costly problems for most companies depending on computers. The damages, if you look at it from an economic standpoint, look at the productivity of people. A good example is the Regional Hospital in Saint John. When they had a virus attack people were lined up. I had a good friend of mine who took his children to the hospital to try and get in to get them looked at and he said they waited something like three hours for them to go through the manual registration process. It's a demonstration of how dependent we are on computers. There's productivity issues. There's the lost time and money if you are a private business and more concerned with the bottom line. If you depend on the Internet for suppliers to supply you with product or the wholesale market to come and buy your product then being down for a couple of minutes can cost you thousands and thousands of dollars. There's a report that has estimated one minute of lost time is something between zero dollars and $27,000 so it depends where you fall on that scale. It certainly is damaging. Q: How difficult is it to track a computer virus or contain a virus once it's spread? A: The proliferation of viruses on the Internet is kind of an unusual situation because generally speaking they will usually occur by time zones. They generally occur in the Far East before we get them. Even Australia you will see them pop up before the Far East so you can generally track them across the globe with popular sites such as bug track. Q: How can you stop them? A: If you can locate them then you can pull the plug on it. That's the best way, just get it off the network. Sometimes if you are a large private network you might not even know that one of your systems was infected. It is possible another company will give your IT department a call and say 'hey we're getting dinged by one of your systems would you please fix it.' It is possible to contain it yes, but it is also possible not to know what is going on. Q: How should people protect themselves from viruses? A: The best way, of course, is to get virus protection software and to keep it updated. There's other things they should be concerned about too like Trojan horses. They're like the Greek story of the army that rolled in the Trojan horse and escaped from it and slaughtered the enemy. The whole idea of the Trojan horse is to slip a program into someone's computer without them even knowing about it. That would grant them access to that person's computer. If you are logging onto your computer with a password then you have control. As soon as you click on a program or download something you grant that program the same authority you have over the system. That's called adopted authority. The way to prevent Trojan horses is to install a firewall. Q: You founded the High Tech Crime Investigative Association, a group of industry processionals and police officers who explore online crime. How vulnerable is New Brunswick to online crime and why did you want to set up the association? A: The reason why I thought the high tech crime investigation association would be useful is quite simple actually. I moved back to raise my family here because McCain Foods offered me an opportunity to develop their information security program and I did that. Part of the program depends on the relationships external to your operation. You need to have relationships with law enforcement. You need to have a relationship with other private businesses and a relationship with the public. That was one of the main motivators. My experiences with the HTCIA when I worked in Toronto was very positive. I worked as an ethical hacker for IBM and a couple other key contracts. I attended HTCIA meetings representing all the various clients of IBM so it was a pretty important role to develop those relationships. How vulnerable are we here? We're extremely vulnerable. Right now Aliant has 70 per cent of the market share in the Maritimes. They have 180,000 dial-ups and have about 80,000 high speed connections. What the significance of that is, if you have a dial-up connection and a security patch comes out, and there's been a lot of them as everybody knows, a lot of people who have dial- up will tend to cancel because it's just so excruciating. Sometimes it takes hours to download. That means a person is no longer protected so if they don't have a firewall it's easy for someone to log onto their system or download information. High speed connections are less of an issue because people generally take the downloads as they come. I would say we are quite vulnerable. One of the things that is kind of misleading is we don't hear a lot of reports of problems. With the association we discuss issues, we don't discuss people and everything is sanitized, but we certainly discuss problems such as privacy, virus prevention. People bring their ideas to that forum to come up with solutions. Q: What are some of the solutions you have come up with so far? A: We're not really sure how much of an effect we've had but we're in our third year, our second formal year, and we're starting to hold workshops. They are generally for people with limited experience with computers. Q: There's been a lot of talk about identity theft in the media. How prevalent is it? A: That's a very good question. How prevalent is it? It is one of the things we're trying to strive to do. One of my responsibilities as a security person is to provide businesses with a practical explanation for that so they can make educated decisions. It's extremely difficult because in all of Canada we're not collecting any statistics on cyber crime. We never have and as close as we're getting is Statistics Canada did a survey or report on whether or not we should collect statistics. In order for us to provide a practical approach to you as a business person and say this is a big problem probably the first question you would say is, 'How big a problem is it Mark?' I would say well it's a $45- billion problem (in the U.S.) and perhaps even up to $5 billion is not even reported to anyone. It's huge. There's 270 million people in the U.S. so you gotta believe it's a problem here. If you asked me what kind of problem was it in the past it would be difficult to quantify because we don't really have any statistics to back that up. If I came to you and said it was a $45-billion problem in the past it puts a better picture on whether or not you should do something as a business person about it. It's extremely difficult. The one thing I do now from our research in the past is you usually had one criminal committing a crime against one individual. They would collect private information such as your birthday, your driver's licence number or SIN number. Then they go in an establish credit at a bank or get a lease on a car and basically not show up or pay for it. Now because of the use of technology it makes it so much easier because it is anonymous. The person can take that information and enter it into an online credit application and apply for credit and have the credit card sent to their house. Of course that doesn't mean they apply to one bank. They can apply to 10 or 12 and have supplies of credit running. One of the interesting twists I heard from an RCMP officer in Winnipeg who specializes in this area is that not only is the person setting up these credit accounts but they are also applying for personal bankruptcy. What that does is it disallows law enforcement or the banks to actually seize anything or put a stop on it because it puts it in the hands of the court till the person shows up in court. Q: What do you tell your kids about the computer and the Internet? A: My kids are really young. They're four and two. I teach them it's a tool that can be used for research and it can be used for communication. You have to be aware of the three principals of secure computing: keep your operating system up to date, keep your virus protection system up to date and have a personal firewall. If you have those three things right now you can assume you are pretty secure for the time being, until someone finds a way to crack those. We go to sites where I know it's safe. I know there's some integrity. Walt Disney studios, Cartoon Network to play some of the free games and stuff like that. I'm usually with them and watch what is going on. I know chat rooms are a big issue with teenagers and a lot of people are concerned about that. There's been some sad sad stories of kids getting mixed up with things through that. It was kind of a running joke in the information security world two years ago about how many 13-year-old teenage girls on the Internet and the fact that probably 90 per cent of them were FBI agents trying to track predators. Q: Does it worry you in a few years your kids will want to be online more and possibly on chat rooms? A: Yeah, but they'll be aware. I'll make sure that they know what's going on and I'll have confidence in them and won't have to be necessarily looking over their shoulder to see what they're doing. I will talk to them. If someone asks you something that's personal evaluate it and talk to someone before answering because it could have a long lasting effect. Q: What do you do in your free time? Do you surf the Web or run away from the computer? A: The computer is a big part of my life but we do lots of things. We have a couple dogs and of course the kids. My wife and I like to take walks on the Canada trail and enjoy the beauty of nature and fresh air. That's one of the reasons we came back, because it is so pristine. Q: What do you think lies ahead for computers and the Internet? A: The change is huge. If you look at the power of computer chips it's doubling every six months so pretty soon it is going to surpass any sort of expectations the most brilliant scientific minds have. The power is tremendous. With power there is also the potential for huge damage and loss. Crime is on the increase. The Internet is like its own new world, brave new world, and crime is reinventing itself on the Internet. Other features: » Back to article list » Print this article » Print this article with picture Advertise on canadaeast.com Copyright © 2005 Brunswick News Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution, or retransmission of any of the contents of this site without the express written consent of Brunswick News Inc. is expressly prohibited. Read our Privacy Policy search online news Home Telegraph Journal Reader Job Finder Print Advertising Info Times & Transcript Daily Gleaner radio stations The Tide 98.1 online services Classifieds Wheels Wireless Careers Personals Movie Central Communities/Events Contests/Fun Stuff free content Obituaries [here] L'Étoile Life & Entertainment Low-Carb Living Business Homes Tourism Whatever Game Break Crossword Recipes Lotteries archives Search the archives contacting us About Us Subscribe Advertise with us Send Feedback daily poll Previous Polls Suggest a poll question (Sarah McGinnis/Telegraph-Journal) Computer security consultant Mark Bernard says that the Internet has dramatically changed the way crimes such as identity theft are carried out.

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