Businesses join battle against cyber crime
Thursday, August 29, 2013 5:43 AM
OTTAWA - Over a decade ago during the early stages of the Intenet, nearly all online businesses were companies with a vested interest in all things computer. Today, most businesses have some web presence, whether it be a simple web page that is little more than a bookmark, to a company that exists virtually online. And just as there are burglars who break into main street storefronts, there are criminals who prowl cyberspace in search of easy marks.
Last Friday, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and the Putnam County Educational Service Center invited large and small business representatives to a cyber security seminar hosted by Congressman Bob Latta (OH-5). Latta serves on the Energy Commerce Committee in Washington, D.C. As such he is privvy to sensitive information on a national level. During the Aug. 23 presentation, the legislator shared some a of the extreme precautions that must be taken to preserve national security.
"My committee also has jurisdiction over telecommunications. I've served on two cyber security task forces in the House. When we go into confidential meetings in Washington, we have to give up our cell phones because those can be turned on when you're in meetings and you don't even know it. Since you can't take the battery out of most cell phones, you're stuck. You have all these little envelopes with numbers in them. We just hand off everything that is electronic, then we come back out, hand them our numbers and we get our cell phones back."
As many of his constituents are in the business of developing innovative products and technology, Latta sought to bring the message of cyber vigilance back to his Ohio district.
"I met with the FBI effort in Washington. I said, 'we shouldn't be the only ones receiving this information. We need to get this out.' They said 'we can get you in contact with special agents in Ohio. That's how it came about. I met with the special agents who are here today."
The "Combating Cyber Crime: How to Protect Your Business Online" seminar features presentations by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and Internet security specialists from the private sector. Prior to Friday's event, the seminar was held at Ohio Northern University, Owens Community College and Northwest State Community College in Archbold.
Ottawa Chamber of Commerce has been trying to bring the seminar to Putnam County since January 2013. It was initially open only to chamber members then seats were made available to other businesses. Latta opened the morning at the Putnam County ESC with a broad overview of cyber crime as well as words of caution.
"Unfortunately, this is something that a lot of people don't think about. You sit down at your computer and all of a sudden you could have all of your information stolen. And I can tell you this. By the time you get done with this today you'll be as paranoid as me. I put black electrical tape over the screen that has the camera at home when its turned on. You'll go home and think you'll get in trouble with the EPA if you start to go back to using smoke signals."
According to Latta, cybercrime is costing this country alone about $110 billion dollars every year. He noted the attacks are coming from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
"A lot of people out there think 'I'm a small business owner, I don't have anything to worry about.' A lot of times those are the ones they're looking for, because you're the beginning of the chain."
Lynn Childs, co-founder of CentraComm, a Findlay-based managed IT security and network services provider, confirmed that 50 percent of targeted attacks are on small business. She explained that criminals employ three primary methods to steal: phishing, spyware and malware.
Phishing criminals typically send an e-mail that looks as if it is from a legitimate source, usually a financial institution, but contains a link to a fake web site that replicates the real one. Spyware is installed unbeknownst to the user and gathers information about that user's browsing habits, intercepts personal data and transmits this information to a third party. Malware is a computer program designed specifically to damage or disrupt a system, or take partial control over its operation. Despite Apple's marketing efforts to convince Internet users that their products are immune to viruses, Childs warns that 600,000 instances of recent cyber theft resulted from attacks on Apple devices.
Childs suggests all suspicious email sources be verified by the recipient. Simply copy the originating website address and paste it into a search at consumerfed.org/fraud. Childs did so with an email supposedly sent to her from retail giant Wal-Mart. The email actually originated from Pakistan.FBI special agents from Cleveland and Toledo added true stories of counterintelligence gathering on business class air flights, social networks, and mobile devices. The theft of data, emerging technology, identity and revenue results in global costs in the trillions.
Local businesses represented have their own concerns about online security. Deb Spero, Imaging Consultants of Findlay, recalled a scare from this summer.
"I had some Internet issues with Time Warner. I called and they needed access to my computer. I gave them access. The next week, my corporate email was down for eight days. It just makes you wonder. I've learned so much today about how easy it is, how foolish that I trusted, you know, in asking "Are you working for Time Warner, are you a subcontractor? 'Oh no, don't worry.' Isn't it a coincidence that the next day, for eight days, our corporate email was a wreck."
Kim Reese, an associate vice president for First National Bank of Pandora, attended the seminar with a the-more-you-know attitude.
"We have had customers who have been victims of phishing incidents. Anything that we can do to help protect and educate our customers we're interested in learning more about."