Much has been written about the information-age crime of hacking. Unfortunately, most of the focus has been on the sensational hacker who overcomes the security systems at the Pentagon or FBI Web site. This bias to the coverage has left the general public with a romanticized idea of what hacking is and the problems it causes. For network administrators and other IT professionals, the realities of network security are much more mundane, yet still just as serious. The constant battle to secure enterprise networks from attack is expensive to wage, taking time and resources away from more productive endeavors.

One of the most effective ways to combat hacking attacks is with shared information. This is where groups like the Hacker Emergency Response Team (HERT) come in. HERT is a community think pool of computer engineers and scientists that specializes in security and reverse engineering. Leading the battle at the HERT site are the organization’s founders Anthony C. Zboralski, David Nataf, and Cedric Le Biavant.

Unfortunately, computer engineers often make lousy Web designers. Network security and the prevention of hacking attacks is technical work. This complexity of subject matter may explain the minimalist design of the HERT Web site. The site layout is a plain table with organizational information and several simple hyperlinks. Links along the left side will take you to a few technical papers on computer network security holes. In addition, there are a number of ways for visitors to report hacking incidents, although the methods aren’t clearly explained.

The poor design of the HERT site is unfortunate since a more interactive design could provide valuable information to IT pros. At the very least, there should be a forum for computer scientists and network administrators to exchange problems and solutions. This kind of community interaction is imperative in the effort to thwart computer hackers. Think about it: One of the reasons computer hackers enjoy success in their mischievous activities is that they have a community that shares the tricks of the trade. The principles of the HERT organization are commendable, but the execution of the Web site is disappointing. Basically, they could use a good Webmaster. Any volunteers?

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