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Small Businesses At Risk For Cyber Attacks

Audio

Aired 3/25/11

Small businesses might think only big corporations need to worry about cyber attacks. But that's not true.

Small-business owners may think they will not be targeted by cyber criminals the way a big company or military contractor might, so it's natural to become lax about cyber security.

Participants at a Securing Our eCity cyber security symposium
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Above: Participants at a Securing Our eCity cyber security symposium

That is the mindset a local program wants to change by raising awareness and educating entrepreneurs that they are also vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Securing Our eCity aims to bring a neighborhood-watch program to the online world, through classroom training, workshops, instructional videos and blogs. Its mission is to allow every San Diegan to live, work and play safely online.

Darin Andersen spearheads the eCity initiative. He is chief operating officer of ESET, a global provider of security software for home and business computers and mobile devices. Its North American corporate headquarters is in San Diego.

“Back in 2008, researchers at my company noticed cyber criminals were becoming increasingly successful at circumventing traditional security technologies, such as antivirus. Instead they were exploiting human behavioral weaknesses which led smart business people to do dumb things online,” Andersen said, explaining why the grassroots program was launched.

Mayor Jerry Sanders with members of the San Diego Imperial Council of Girl Scouts.
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Above: Mayor Jerry Sanders with members of the San Diego Imperial Council of Girl Scouts.

At the same time, small businesses and the general public did not realize how inventive scammers had gotten.

“The awareness level still is, unfortunately, low. New versions of traditional scams like the 419 Nigerian letter scam are rampant,” he said.

To combat this threat, Andersen advised small businesses to keep their operating systems up to date and to run and update antivirus software on computers and mobile devices.

Geo-tagging, or mapping one’s coordinates and location, is a hot trend right now. He said it would be prudent to refrain from sharing through social media details of business and personal trips until after the trip, so criminals do not discover your whereabouts.

Andersen also suggested cutting down on the use of social media.

“Limit your share of social networking, because once you friend someone, you’ve really undressed yourself in front of them,” he said.

Typically, companies in the financial, defense and health industries are the main targets of cyber criminals. But such firms also adopt tough security measures, making them more of a challenge. However, small firms become targets for hackers because they are easier to break into.

eCity is the first comprehensive awareness program that shows people what not to do online. The City of San Diego welcomed the initiative and it’s now a model program at the state and national level, Andersen said.

It is also being set up in several cities across the U.S and has even partnered with the Girl Scouts to develop a “Cyber Savvy” patch.

Classes are free and held on-demand. On average, each class trains 25 people at a time about precautions, but class sizes can be as large as 500.

Comments

Avatar for user 'radiofree'

radiofree | March 26, 2011 at 3:36 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

For 20 years I tested software at various telecommunications R&D labs such as Qualcomm and Nokia. I worked next to many people who knew about security threats but did not take the necessary measures to counter them because they felt they did not have the time. What I found is that security needs to be factored into the schedule. In business, everyone is always pressed for time. This is true for small businesses and large corporations. Now as the owner of a small business, BusinessVideoProductions.biz, I take the time to put security on my to-do list. Because if you do not schedule security work, it does not get done. They say recognizing a problem is the 1st step to fixing it. Creating and implementing your plan of action are the 2nd and 3rd steps.

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