Cyber Crime Threats Rise; 3 Good Reasons to Enhance Data Security

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Cyber crimes are on the rise.  If you've opened a newspaper or visited the Internet, you probably know this.  Why is it, then, that so many consumers seem to be ignoring the growing storm that threatens all of us?  The enemy--hackers, phishers, identity thieves and the like--are coming after you armed with the latest technology designed to separate you from what's yours.  And most consumers are meeting this onslaught with the equivalent of an unloaded popgun!

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and October 17-23 is National Protect Your Identity Week. Identity theft continues to be a growing problem; the number of victims in the US reached 11.1 million in 2009, a 12.5 percent increase over the previous year, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. 

As with any threat -our best defense is a solid offense. We need to arm ourselves with the same level of technological superiority possessed by the enemy.  Face it: criminals are using today's technology to access our data, and if we fail to catch up with them, it is going to cost us all. Without a healthy respect for the technological advances made available to any tech savvy criminal in today's world, you are at risk of losing your data, your identity, and your very peace of mind.

Here's just one example: When is a familiar website not a familiar website?  When it has been hacked to look just like a site you visit all the time.  According to world news service AFP, as many as 57,000 spoof websites go live each week.  Popular sites like eBay and Western Union--sites that handle money and personal information--are favorite targets.  The bogus sites can be used to capture whatever you type in--your password, your credit card number, your bank routing information--and they are also used to insert viruses into computers that connect to them.

What that means is that when you log in to pay your bills, you'd better be darned sure you're logging into a genuine site and not a spoof.  PandaLabs, a well-known anti-hacking company, is quoted in the article as saying that two-thirds of the spoof sites that go up are banks.  The top ten sites spoofed include "Visa,, PayPal, HSBC, and the United States Internal Revenue Service."  Gee, have you been on any of those sites lately?

Not convinced yet?  Here's another example of cyber crime run amuck.  Microsoft reported this week that the latest threat to security online is the ominously named Botnet.  It sounds like a robot that surfs the Internet, and that's pretty much what it is.  It's a program that scours the Internet looking for security holes in sites like the ones I mentioned above, sites that handle sensitive financial information, infecting those sites with spyware, clickware, and other pernicious programs designed to scrape away your money, your identity, or both. 

Despite the fact that Microsoft claims to have cleaned up 6.5 million botnet infections, the article is clear that even the bottomless resources of Microsoft cannot handle the size of the crime.  Botnet owners, called "herders," make their money by leasing their technology to cyber criminals, like Internet middlemen.

To make matters worse, mid-size businesses are really starting to feel the pinch of cyber crime.  Recent reports indicate mid-size businesses are really starting to feel the pinch of cyber crime.  Thanks to these tough economic times, businesses are scaling back on expensive security budgets--only to find that they are then having to spend major bucks to repair their systems after a cyber attack.
Another reason people should reconsider cutting data security corners;

According to "The Security Paradox" study, more than half of surveyed midsize companies have seen more security incidents in the past year, from mid-2009 to mid-2010. Of those who'd been hacked, 16 percent reported it took them more than a week to recover from the damage.

So there you have it.  Cyber crimes are on the rise.  The technology being used today is far more sophisticated than what was used in the past; individuals and corporations large, small, and in between have to take the threat seriously.  Threats abound both online and offline and no one is immune to a data breach or identity theft. 

We are taught to heed warnings on everything from stormy weather to possible contamination of the food supply.  Why, then, would we ignore these factual warnings?  The facts speak for themselves. 

As spoofers and technology get more advanced, we have to be even more vigilant.  We all know that technology plays a greater roll in our lives today than it did in the lives of previous generations, and there is no doubt that tech-savvy criminals will continue to find ways utilize it --we must too. Take control of your identity -before someone else does!



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