Tuesday, December 22, 2009

White House Announces New Cybersecurity Coordinator; Tips for Protecting Yourself Online

Today, the White House announced President Barack Obama’s new White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, Howard A. Schmidt. With some 40 years of experience in government, business and law enforcement, Schmidt brings a unique and deep experience to this important issue.

Following, is the full text of the announcement e-mail sent to the White House e-mail list by John Brennan [pictured], Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism:

* * *

Dear Friend,

Cybersecurity matters to all of us. Protecting the Internet is critical to our national security, public safety, and our personal privacy and civil liberties. It’s also vital to President Obama’s efforts to strengthen our country -- from the modernization of our health care system, to the high-tech job creation central to our economic recovery.

The very e-mail you are reading underscores our dependence on information technologies in this digital age, which is why it seemed like a fitting way to announce that the President has chosen Howard Schmidt to be the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator. Howard will have the important responsibility of orchestrating the many important cybersecurity activities across the government.

Howard is one of the world’s leading authorities on computer security, with some 40 years of experience in government, business and law enforcement. Learn more about Howard's background and approach to cybersecurity here.

Howard will have regular access to the President and serve as a key member of his National Security staff. He will also work closely with his economic team to ensure that our cybersecurity efforts keep the Nation secure and prosperous.

Moving forward we will use WhiteHouse.gov, this e-mail program, and our other communications tools to keep you posted about our progress in this important area.


John O. Brennan
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

P.S. You can play an important role in cybersecurity as well. Learn more about the issue and steps you can take to ensure your own security.

* * *

Tips for Protecting Yourself Online
Cybersecurity matters to all of us – and it’s our shared responsibility to mitigate the threats in this space. You can take cybersecurity into your own hands with these tips for protecting yourself online:

* Keep your security software and operating system up-to-date. At a minimum, your computer should have current anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall to protect yourself from hackers and malicious software that can steal sensitive personal information. Hackers also take advantage of Web browsers and operating system software that do not have the latest security updates. Operating-system companies issue security patches for flaws that they find in their systems, so it is important to set your operating system and Web browser software to download and install security patches automatically.

* Protect your personal information online. Millions of people become victims of identity theft each year. One way that cyber criminals convince computer users to divulge their confidential personal information is through fake "phishing" e-mails, which are often cleverly disguised to look like authentic e-mails. Be wary of clicking on links in e-mails that are unfamiliar, and be very cautious about providing personal information online; e.g., your password, financial information, or Social Security number.

* Know who you are dealing with. It is remarkably simple for online scammers to impersonate a legitimate business, so you need to know who you are dealing with. If you are thinking about shopping on an unfamiliar website, do some independent research before you buy. Similarly, before you download software, be sure that the software developer is trustworthy. Cyber criminals will often embed the capability to steal passwords and files into free software.

* Learn what to do if something goes wrong. If your computer gets hacked, the effects may be obvious [e.g., deleted or corrupted files]; or, they may be subtle [e.g., slow computing performance]. As a first step, you should scan your computer with updated anti-virus software. You may wish to get professional assistance through your computer’s manufacturer, computer retail store, or local computer technician. You can also alert the appropriate authorities by contacting your Internet service provider [ISP] or the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The Federal Trade Commission [FTC] can assist if you are subject to identity theft. You can also forward spam or phishing e-mails to the FTC at spam@uce.gov.

SOURCES: FTC, The White House, Wikipedia

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SBA Secures Funding to Extend Recovery Act Loans; Agency Plans to Restart Recovery Loan Approvals by Dec. 28

President Obama signed the U.S. Department of Defense [DOD] appropriations bill on Saturday [Dec. 19], which included $125 million to continue through Feb. 28, 2010 -- the enhancements made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA] to SBA’s two largest loan programs. The SBA estimates the additional funding will support $4.5 billion in small-business lending.

New approvals of loans with the higher guarantee and reduced fees made possible by ARRA are expected to begin by Dec. 28. Loan applications from borrowers who chose to be placed in the SBA’s Recovery Loan Queue will be funded first, followed by new loan approvals beginning on or before Dec. 28.

“This Administration and Congress recognize that these key programs were successful in helping jump-start the economic recovery for America’s small businesses,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “The increased guarantee and reduced fees on SBA loans helped put more than $16.5 billion in the hands of small-business owners and brought more than 1,200 lenders back to SBA loan programs. The extension of these programs through February is important to continuing our path toward recovery, and will mean that thousands more small-business owners have access to the credit they need.

“Just two weeks ago, President Obama laid out key aspects of his jobs plan -- including significant ongoing support for small businesses. We will continue to work with Congress on moving those proposals forward -- including extending these loan enhancements as the President has called for, to ensure that small-business owners have the tools they need to drive economic growth and create jobs in communities all across the country.”

As part of ARRA, SBA received $730 million -- which included $375 million to increase the SBA guarantee on 7[a] loans to 90 percent, and to waive borrower fees on most 7[a] and 504 loans. The funds for these programs were exhausted on Nov. 23.

SBA created the Recovery Loan Queue as part of its transition back to pre-ARRA lending on Nov. 23, because previously approved loans are sometimes canceled or never disbursed for a variety of reasons. Eligible small businesses, in consultation with their lender, could choose to be placed in the queue for possible approval of an ARRA loan if funding became available. Currently, there are 1,069 loans totaling almost $530 million in the Recovery Loan Queue.

The extension included in the DOD bill authorizes the higher guarantee levels through Feb. 28, 2010. The fee relief is authorized until this additional funding is exhausted or the end of the fiscal year, whichever comes first. As was the case in November, SBA will transition into a queue system as the funds start to wind down, in order to ensure the maximum simulative effect of the programs and disbursement of funds.

For non-ARRA 7[a] or 504 loans funded during the transition period, this extension does not provide a retroactive guarantee or waived fees. Loans that were funded under non-ARRA terms cannot be canceled and resubmitted to take advantage of the ARRA extension provisions.

This extension does not affect other SBA ARRA programs -- including the America’s Recovery Capital [ARC] Loan Program, or the agency’s microloans. ARRA funding still remains for both of those programs.

SOURCES: Library of Congress, Recovery.gov, U.S. Small Business Administration

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Treasury, SBA Submit Small Business Financing Forum Report to the President

Today, as a follow-up to the Nov. 18 Small Business Financing Forum, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Small Business Administration [SBA] issued a report to President Barack Obama, summarizing the policy ideas and recommendations discussed. Last month's forum brought together small-business owners, lenders, regulators and policymakers for an open discussion focused on the best ideas for providing the support that small businesses need to continue to drive economic recovery.

The report is aimed at continuing this important dialogue going forward -- including President Obama's Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth tomorrow, during which SBA Administrator Karen Mills and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner [pictured] will be leading a session, "Paving the Road for Small Business Job Growth."

For more information regarding Recovery Act-related small-business funding policy, check out the following resources:
* Small Business Financing Forum Report to the President
* Small Business and Community Lending Initiatve
* Fact Sheet: Unlocking Credit for Small Businesses
* Q&A for Small Business Owners

SOURCES: FinancialStability.gov, U.S. Department of the Treasury

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