Dave Kinsey 2014-06-03 03:06:24
Seems like we’ve been inundated over the past few months with rampant cyber-theft- Target, Nieman Marcus, Yahoo and even mysterious $9.84 credit-card charges. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, this is most likely the norm going forward. Over 13 million consumers suffered identity fraud in 2013. And with new and clever technologies developing all the time, this number could increase. I’ve read statistics ranging from 175 hours to more than 600 hours for the average victim of identity theft to clear their name and clean up the fraud conducted with their personal information. There is significant risk of stolen money, stolen time, and the emotional toll such an event would have on you and your business. There are two basic ways cyber criminals gain access to your personal information over the web. They are: 1. Phishing & Email Scams – Online scammers send spam or pop-up messages to your computer and try to get you to provide personal or sensitive business information over the web, or they’ll ask for your credit card information to buy a fake product, or to pay for shipping on a free gift. 2. Spyware - Spyware is software installed on your computer without your consent to monitor or control your computer use. Clues that spyware is on a computer may include a barrage of pop-ups, a browser that takes you to sites you don’t want, unexpected toolbars or icons on your computer screen, keys that don’t work, random error messages, and sluggish performance when opening programs or saving files. While it’s impossible to plan for every potential scenario, a little proactive planning and proper network precautions will help you avoid or greatly reduce the impact of the vast majority of cyber identity theft you could experience. By following these 10 steps, you will be reducing your risk: STEP 1 - Encrypt Your Backups. If you don’t have encryption, you are opening yourself up to a big risk of your identity and other important data being swiped. That is why it is so important to make sure your backup is properly secured. STEP 2 - Set Up A UTM (Unified Threat Management) Grade Firewall & Update It Regularly. There is a huge difference between a proper industrial strength UTM firewall (which generally requires ongoing software subscription and ongoing updates) and a cheap residential firewall you can pick up at Best Buy (or that the typical residential IT guy will use). The risk a business faces is larger than that of an individual – do not skimp in this area – you cannot afford the risk of using a consumer grade firewall. STEP 3 - Make Sure Your Virus Protection Is Always On and Up-To-Date. Your UTM device (see Step #2) is your most critical anti-malware defense – for many threats, once it reaches your system, it’s too late. This is because anti-virus vendors are continually playing catch up after new malware is detected. However, it’s important to have multiple layers of defense. You cannot afford to be without up-to-date virus protection on your devices. STEP 4 - Update Your System With Critical Security Patches As They Become Available. Most hackers learn about security loopholes when Microsoft(or any other software vendor) announces the vulnerability and issues an update. That is their cue to spring into action to access any computer or network that has not yet installed the security patch. If you are still running XP, no updates are available. Avoid XP. Upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. STEP 5 - Only Shop on Secure Websites. Before you type your credit card into a website, ensure it is secure. Look for “https://” in the address bar of your Web browser when you are checking out. STEP 6 - Avoid Financial Transactions Over Public Wi-Fi. You can’t guarantee that free or shared Wi-fi access is secure so avoid financial transactions on these connections. STEP 7 - Setup Banking Alerts for Unusual or Large Transactions. Ask your bank to notify you of any suspicious or large transactions. STEP 8 - Pick Complex Passwords. Use phrase acronyms and keyboard combinations. Never use repeat passwords or words in the dictionary for your financial accounts. STEP 9 - Never Directly Answer Or Respond To An Email From Your Bank. Criminals have become very adept at appearing that they are a financial institution when they are not. Never rely on links in emails to access your financial accounts. STEP 10 - Check Your Bank Balances And Statements Regularly. Good old-fashioned visual checks on your balances and a scan of your transactions are the best practice to be sure that nothing has slipped through the cracks. Have a question for the IT Expert? Email firstname.lastname@example.org Dave Kinsey is the owner and president of Total Networks. Total Networks is the tech nology partner to many law firms through out Arizona. Services include document management, backup and disaster recovery, business communications, and general IT support (for firms with or without in -house technical staff).
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