Local businesses protect others from cyber-security threats

It’s usually kidnapped people – not a hijacked computer – that are held for ransom.

“Once that machine is encrypted by the malware, the hacker contacts you with a ransom note to your screen: ‘If you want the keys to encrypt your machine, send $500 to us,’” said Jeff Hurley, CEO of DataPrivia, a technology consulting firm in Wyndhurst.

“We’ve helped companies locally that have dealt with that.”

About 20 percent of cyber attacks are on businesses with 250 or fewer employees, according to McAfee, a computer security software company.

Meanwhile, six in 10 businesses do not have a contingency plan if they’re breached, according to a 2014 study by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Local businesses are exposed in various ways to the new type of crime, where intellectual property and identity theft are vulnerable. But common sense and preventative action go a long way, local experts said.

Earlier this year, the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce website was hacked.

“We were in the middle of upgrading our site and converting to a different web database. Our ‘plug-ins’ needed to be updated and as we were in the midst of conversion… hackers took advantage,” said Christine Kennedy, chamber president, in an email. “We now have a secure site.”

Patches, or software updates, help make computers secure. As hackers and programs find a way around security, a new patch is issued, which is then surmounted again by the hackers. This back-and-forth cycle of hack and patch is what makes updating important to a network’s security.

At one point, a small business in Rustburg faced an attempted breach from an IP address that was traced back to the Korean peninsula.

The attempt was a “brute force attack,” which Robert New, CEO of New Forensic Technologies, characterized as a barrage of messages sent to the company with the aim of crashing its firewall. Fortunately, NFT has about a dozen employees and specializes in cyber security and sustained the attack.

“Pretty much any kind of business in the cyber arena [is liable to attack.],” New said.

“I mean, if they’re not protecting themselves, it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when,” New said.

Hurley, who was interviewed by The News & Advance separately from New, said the same: “If you have a network, you are at risk… And if you’re not using proper security controls in your network, it’s not a matter of if you’re compromised. It’s really a matter of when.”

Both said small businesses are easier prey and that breaches can occur without the user knowing. Hurley, who has offices and clients outside of Central Virginia, said this region doesn’t take the threat as seriously as his other markets do.

About two-thirds of businesses are not concerned about cyber threats, according to the NCSA.

“We have put forth a lot of effort into training and awareness to help people understand the threat,” he said.

Not all breaches are from external sources.

One testimonial on the NFT website reads: “The forensic team isolated the breach within hours and their company was able to conduct a complete computer forensic exam on the workstation, identifying the employee, which led to her termination and arrest. They then worked with the company’s IT department to put network policies in place to prevent this from occurring in the future.”

The company was OPSEC3 International, based in Forest, which provides protection services. “People just don’t realize that those fingerprints are always going to be there and it takes a very skilled type of person to get it out,” said David Brown, who’s in management with NFT.

Other ways around firewalls are through individual users who may be lured through an email from someone posing as a member of their IT department asking for personal information. A preventive measure often stressed is training employees on best practices, setting up networks for just transactions and for companies to back up important data.

“Make certain that you’re working with someone who can come in and perform an assessment against your network and let you know where you’re most vulnerable and provide you with steps you can take to remediate those,” Hurley said.

But most commonly, Hurley said, infections come from clicking on ads.

“Simply by web browsing, going to sites that you are not certain are reputable sites, you run the risk.”

Source: The News & Advance

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