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Building up a firewall against hackers

It goes without saying. If you’re on social media, there will inevitably come a time when you or your friends will need to send a post to the effect of, “Don’t accept any friend requests from me. I’ve been hacked.”

Hackers are out there and, in your circle, they may only want to cause havoc and be an inconvenience to you, although they also want to mine information in hopes of making a dollar or two.

In the business world, dollars are involved with hackers… lots of dollars. A hacker can cause a loss of a significant amount of money, typically headed to the hacker’s pocketbook.

A large corporation has IT departments charged with preventing intrusion from the dark side into the networks and eventually, the corporation’s coffers.

While those coffers may be huge, a loss certainly hurts the bottom line. And when the company involved is a smaller, local mom and pop business, the loss hurts even though.

Mike Skinner is the principal in Skinner Technology Group, a Hernando-based company that is a security-minded managed service provider and cybersecurity consulting firm. Skinner brings more than 20 years experience in consulting companies and industries at all levels.

He has joined 12 other industry experts in co-authoring a book geared toward small business. “The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Protecting Your Business From Hackers” was written with the Main Street firm in mind, Skinner said.

“We wanted to put together an easy guide for small business owners because a lot of what’s out there related to cyber security is too technical, too complicated, and honestly, small business owners don’t have the time to figure out what all the ‘tech jargon’ means,” Skinner said. “We really just wanted to help small businesses with their cyber security.”

According to “Cybercrime Magazine,” in a report published three years ago, cybercrime was expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Skinner says small companies can be easy targets for hackers.

“When you start up a new business you get all of the marketing materials about ‘let us do your state regulations,’ and all that,” Skinner said. “The hackers see that information, too, so it’s like a notification for them of a new target. They are really hitting on those startups right now.”

Skinner continues by saying that when cyberattacks happen at a business, it becomes public, customers and clients find out about it.

Throughout the guide, small business owners are asked to consider their current cybersecurity practices and what they are doing to protect themselves from cybercrime.

“The modern approach to cyber security is to take action,” Skinner points out. “If you see something on the network, take action. The quicker you can stop it, the less damage they can do, the less data they can take. We need to minimize the impact and time that a company’s being breached.”

So what is big in the business hacking world today? Skinner said it is something called Business Email Compromise, or BEC. That’s where a hacker breaches a company’s email platform and then starts contacting customers and vendors, asking for money.

“They’ll start saying, ‘your invoices are past due, we need to change our payment information to this bank account,’ and the money gets routed,” Skinner explained. “A lot of these business email compromises happen to construction companies, large developers because they post about the projects that they are working on. The hackers will see who the vendors and subcontractors are, a name to go after.

Skinner added his firm sees “at least three of those a week hitting businesses that are in my sphere of contacts.”

“It’s not unusual for small or mid-sized businesses to make a $100,000-$150,000 payment that they thought was to their legitimate vendor, but it’s not,” Skinner said.

One important method to stopping cybercrime is to get a response plan together with definite policies and procedures about what employees can and cannot do. It is also important to remember that every business owner will be hacked at some time. How that company responds to the hacking is the key. Training and awareness by employees is also important, getting in front of the employees and educating them about cyber threats.

Skinner and the authors hope the guide can provide practical information that won’t come across as confusing “tech-speak.”

“The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Protecting Your Business From Hackers” is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and similar online booksellers.

This article originally appeared on Desoto County News