August20

There’s No Way to Ride a Trojan Horse

By Tony Shepley

My son asked me yesterday whether the world was an easier and better place in the 1970’s. Since he was born in the late 1990’s, the 1970’s seem like ancient history to him, a land of milk and honey in a galaxy far, far away. Although I remember a lot of the music fondly, we can’t forget that the ‘70s were the era of polyester leisure suits, big hair, gas shortages, and 55mph speed limits. How about that orange shag carpeting? What else slips my mind?

The part that any millennial has a hard time understanding is a world without personal computers. They have never been without them yet back in the 1970’s we really couldn’t imagine them. Now they rule every part of our lives. With any new technology comes new consequences. Human nature being what it is, the one percenters start to use that technology against the other 99% of us. In the 1970’s, we had never heard the term hacker.

Today, the forces of computer evil are gaining in their sophistication. Their spamware e-mails look real, they aren’t as crude and mis-spelled as they were a few years ago, they use real names that have been carefully harvested from your address book, and they have the patience to imbed a virus in your system and wait 6 months before activating it. Ransomware can literally hold your system hostage while demanding a ransom for the release of your data. Who says the release will actually happen after payment? CryptoLocker, WannCry, Petya, Cerber, and Locky are some of the better known names of ransomware and ransom amounts have ranged from $300 to millions of dollars. Companies as large as General Motors have been hit. Just this week one of our suppliers suffered a cyber attack that encrypted and locked all their files relating to product and inventory data. They were unable to place, pull, or ship any orders. They say that no customer information was compromised in this attack, but only time will tell. That is the double edge of the cyber attack sword. Not only is your business taken down, it may also be possible for your customer’s information to be accessed and they too might be targeted and compromised. Yahoo, Equifax, Target, Uber, e-Bay, JP Morgan, Sony, Home Depot, and Adobe are all companies who have been hacked and had to spend millions in remediation, legal fees, plus racked up huge business losses while compromised. The double edge is that we are responsible not only for our own data, but also our client’s data. If you take credit cards, you take on a whole other layer of risk.

Here are the things that we need to think about as business owners and individuals.

  • We are all potential targets.
  • We are digitally dependent and therefore digitally vulnerable.
  • Having the proper procedures in place is critical.
    • Do you have a firewall or antivirus system in place?
    • Do you have regular off site data back up?
    • Do you have strong enough passwords in place and most critically, does your system time out after a certain number of failed password attempts? If not, a hacker can employ a password cracking program and likely break through your password in a matter of minutes.
    • Are you compliant with security requirements? Written Information Security Policy (WISP) is a critical legal requirement for all employers and ignorance is no excuse when it comes to the law.
    • You may consider hiring a consultant to do a systems audit to make sure you have the proper elements in place to protect your business, digitally and legally. You likely will need training in how to be compliant

 

The bottom line is to not allow your business to be the easy target. Hackers are looking for the low hanging fruit, don’t make yourself a ripe apple!

So to further answer my son’s questions about the 1970’s, it was a time of considerably more limited information and communication. Does that make it easier or better? If ignorance is bliss, then we were certainly blissfully ignorant, but now we have far better means with which to educate ourselves. The laws of human nature state “With greater power, comes greater responsibility”. Stay thirsty (for knowledge) my friends!

 

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