Cyber-crime—Everybody is at Risk

By Patrick Butler

It isn’t just the big corporations that have to watch out for cyber-criminals, an electronic security expert warned local businesspeople at a Northcenter Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Everybody in just about any kind of business needs to keep a wary eye open these days, Galaxia Martin of the SMB Help Desk told a lunchtime meeting at A.J. Hudson restaurant, 3801 N. Ashland Ave.

“Many startups feel their information isn’t that important (to anyone but you).” But cyber attacks of all kinds are on the increase, Martin said, adding that last year’s statistics showed a 20 percent increase in these kinds of crimes.

And the offenders often don’t look all that suspicious – “Like the girl sitting in a coffee shop pretending to work. But she’s really collecting data for her boss. She’s just made $100,000 (for a day’s work),” Martin said.

Today it’s more than stealing someone’s password, Social Security number or bank account number, but the concern of governments at all levels, Martin said.

What’s happening now is that cyber thieves are holding stolen data for ransom, she said, adding that one recent victim back in January was an electric utility that suffered a massive outage before being told to pay up.

And they still haven’t fully recovered, she said.

“If you were down for 60 to 90 days, could your business survive? A lot of small businesses couldn’t,” said Martin, adding that when she was growing up, she probably had the first computer on the block – and an engineer father who was forever drumming in the importance of security.

And it’s not likely to change anytime soon, she said.

“They say that in the next five years there aren’t going to be enough cyber security personnel to meet the need,” Martin noted.

Not surprisingly, most of the victims are in advanced parts of the world – the U.S and Western Europe. The industries most heavily infected by ransom ware are health care (45 percent), financial services (12-15 percent), retail (about seven percent), and education (15 percent, mostly because the thieves are after the parents’ financial information), Martin explained.

“It can only take one click for a business or individual to be infected and their data stolen or held for ransom,” she said.

Questions?  Call Martin at SMB Help Desk, 4147 N. Ravenswood, Chicago.  (773) 888-7900.

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