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Cybersecurity expert shares tips with Economic Club audience | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

Raj Patel, chief growth officer for SensCy, an Ann Arbor-based start-up cybersecurity company, was the guest speaker at a Thursday luncheon meeting of the Economic Club of Lapeer County. Photo by Jeff Hogan

ELBA TWP. — Thursday afternoon, members and guests of the Economic Club of Lapeer County, many whom are owners and employees of small businesses in the community, heard from a cybersecurity expert. The Economic Club is a function of the Lapeer Development Corporation led by executive director Sam Moore.

Raj Patel, chief growth officer at SensCy, an Ann Arbor-based startup company, said he didn’t want to scare luncheon guests who met at the Lapeer Country Club in Elba Township, but he said it’s imperative businesses and employees working from home take measures to guard against revenue loss, downtime, and the possibility of exposing sensitive information due to cyberattacks.

“Forty-three percent of cyberattacks happen to small businesses with 250 or fewer employees,” said Patel, who said organized crime is now responsible for the majority of cyberattacks. “Hackers realize they can go to 50 small businesses and demand $1 million in ransom, and they know many will pay.” Institutions in Michigan have recently been targeted and victimized by cybersecurity attacks, including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Baker College and the City of Allen Park.

In today’s digital world, data is a valuable asset and hackers are realizing that small and medium-sized organizations (SMOs) are significantly less protected than large companies with many resources. The greatest external threat to organizations is cybersecurity attacks and SMOs are becoming more frequent targets each and every day. Large companies have the financial and personnel resources to manage cybersecurity issues. Many SMOs do not have that luxury.

On average, said Patel, businesses paid $1.5 million to recover from a ransomware attack and it took, on average, one month to fully recover. Small businesses are often targeted by cybercriminals due to their limited resources and less robust security measures. Less than 1% of companies with under 500 employees have someone dedicated to cybersecurity, making them extremely vulnerable. He said 75% of SMOs could not continue to operate if they were hit with ransomware. They’d be out of business.

Patel said there is good news. “Eighty-eight percent of cyberattacks could have been avoided if basic cybersecurity hygiene was implemented and understood by the employees. He said 80% of successful breaches to digital information start with phishing attempts by cybercriminals who probe business websites and digital information transfers for vulnerable access points — including emails.

The emergency of artificial intelligence (AI), said Patel, has made it even easier for cybercriminals to befriend business operators who may give away passwords and other critical information that may allow criminals to access and steal sensitive and otherwise private data.

Cybersecurity attacks can be caused by employees who make critical mistakes. Patel told the Economic Club luncheon audience that it’s critically important for small business leaders to understand this dynamic, and there is no better way than through personal touchpoints.

He said it’s vital that small businesses (employees) have the proper education, have a sound policy, best practices, and a clear understanding of their cyberhealth, thereby reducing the chances of a catastrophic cybersecurity event.

Patel asked for a show of hands by attendees to indicate how many people have income tax information on their home computers. More than half of those in attendance raised their hands. Patel said if people took nothing else away from his presentation Thursday, he urged people to go to Best Buy or other retailers that night to purchase a USB thumb drive and to remove their tax information from their computer hard drives, and to store them in safes or other secure places away from the prying eyes of hackers.

He also urged people to review their business cybersecurity measures, and to do simple things like not open an email or link from a sender they don’t know.

Patel’s employer, SensCy, provides a personalized concierge service by having a cybersecurity person assigned to each of its current 50-plus customers.

Patel joined the cybersecurity team at SensCy in August 2022. The hiring announcement was made by former Michigan governor Rick Snyder, CEO of SensCy. “Throughout his career, Raj has demonstrated his leadership in the evolution of cyber practices and solutions to manage the evolving cyber landscape, focusing on people, process, and technology,” said Snyder at the time.

For the last 20 years, Patel was a partner and practice leader of Plante Moran’s cybersecurity consulting practice. He joined the firm in 2002 to build the practice from the ground up. Under his leadership, the team grew to nearly 100 professionals, serving large and small clients in both the private and public sector.

Crain’s Detroit Business recognized Patel as a “40 Under 40” recipient in 2009 and a “American Dreamers” award winner in 2007 for his professional accomplishments. Patel is often quoted in national and regional publications and recently was featured in a cover story for CIO magazine discussing the importance of cybersecurity in the remote work environment. His articles have been published in various publications including Corporate Board Member, Chief Executive, CFO and on MarketWatch. He also wrote cyber blogs for Crain’s Detroit Business.

The Economic Club of Lapeer County promises its members an opportunity to make new acquaintances and obtain information and ideas from leaders in business and related fields and an opportunity to contribute to the economic development in the county. Six luncheons are held throughout the year.

The scheduled Sept. 28 guest speaker at the Economic Club of Lapeer County luncheon is Debasiah Dutta, chancellor of the University of Michigan-Flint. For more information about the Club or to join, call 810-667- 0080 or email laura@lapeerdevelopment.com.


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