What's New in Technology for April, 2010

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Technology: Cyber Crooks Target Small Businesses

Don't assume that your business is too small to merit the attention of a hacker. These crooks don't care how big or small your company is. When it comes to stealing financial information - especially customers' credit card numbers - the incentive remains the same. Business owners are vulnerable in two arenas - their Web sites and their networks. Here are some tips to protect your company from cyber crooks.

Hackers often use automated programs to capitalize on a flaw in common software that is used by thousands of computer users. Using this indiscriminate method, hackers want to reach and infect as many webpages as possible, planting something malicious that will get picked up by visitors to the site. Websites run by smaller companies with less security savvy are often considered easy targets for this type of criminal activity.

As if dealing with fixing the infected site is not enough, business owners could end up blacklisted by major search engines (Google, Microsoft, etc.), which means customers who find your name through a search will receive messages warning them that your site is not safe. How much business is lost when a website loses customers' confidence? Fixing the problem is only the first step. Corrupted pages must be identified and reinstalled with clean pages, and security gaps have to be closed. Then you can ask Google for a rescan to get your site declared clean and removed from the blacklist. Time-consuming recovery procedures can kill a new business. Prevention must be in place. Obviously, no prevention plan can be 100 percent guaranteed, but make sure you follow up on these tips:

  • Ensure your web hosting company is taking care of your security.
  • Most commonly used software is frequently the conduit used by crooks to infect your site. For example if you use a blogging program, make up strong passwords and keep them closely held. Educate staff regularly on the importance of keeping passwords a secret.

Not Always Technology
It is not always weaknesses in technology that allow hackers to get into your network.  Increasingly, employees are the weakest link. Employees whose loyalty to your business is unquestioned are often the chink in the armor. Here's how this breach occurs:

  • Crooks identify people likely to have access to administrative system programs. It is not too hard to do this using social (Facebook) and job networking sites (LinkedIn).
  • When the hacker has the target employee's email or instant messaging information, the cyber crook has a number of methods available to hijack the target's computer and gain access to the network with a virus or a bot.

It is worrisome - given the millions of people who use social networking sites - to note that hackers are increasingly using social networking as a key element in their attacks on secure networks.  Staying current on cyber crime continues to be an increasingly difficult job.


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