A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: The (cyber) truth is out there, and we should care. Are you tuned out to dangers that lurk?

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

Capital One, Facebook, Equifax, and Yahoo. Four very different companies with one big thing in common: they’ve all been at the center of a breaking news story as victims of a cyber attack. In each case, someone or some group has managed to break into the company electronically, pilfer through files and access what is considered protected data. By all assumptions, that data was carefully guarded by the companies collecting it. 

News stations drone on about the steps consumers should take, like how to pick strong passwords, and whether or not to accept monitoring protection if offered by the compromised company. The constant awareness of cyber threats leaves many people with a sinking feeling of hopelessness.

Click image to go to identitytheft.gov

“Why should I care? My information is out there,” we ask ourselves. “What more can I do if cybercriminals continue to unlock the safeguards that are in place?”

Local IT and cyber experts agree that the warnings, the news stories and the alerts about these incidents will eventually become background noise to consumers and businesses. To learn how to combat “cyber apathy,” BBB spoke with Chad Adams, Vice President of Operations for Intrust IT and Sergeant Dave Ausdenmoore of Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department’s Regional Electronics and Computer Investigations Unit.

Chad responded that there is no doubt that as these incidents become more normal occurrences, the attention level of the average consumer will most likely start to wane. He compared today’s level of cybersecurity to the number of people who lock the front door of their home.
“In the 1950s, you could have walked down the street on any given day of the week, pulled on 100 doors, and found 95 of them unlocked. As we moved into the 1980s, that number probably dwindled to about 60–70 unlocked, and now at nearly 2020, I’d imagine you‘d find 95 locked doors, and 5 that somebody just forgot about,” he said. “Today, the average person is taking additional measures to protect their home, whether it’s occupied or not.”

Cybersecurity has experienced a similar evolution. It was once assumed a cyber thief had to be highly educated in the field of networking or remote access, and able to decode technology that was considered complicated in the era. Fast forward to the current century, and just about anyone with a wifi connection can be a danger to someone’s information, Sergeant Ausdenmoore noted.

“The fact of the matter is that our information is out there—whether we want it there or not. The big three credit companies know more about us than we probably do, and they store that data on computers connected to networks that can eventually be breached,” he said. He went on to highlight the two options available to modern consumers: choose not to use technology and increase security to a degree, or use technology and accept the risk.

To that, Chad added while it’s true that in a matter of minutes someone could easily access your personal information, that’s no excuse not to try and protect it.

“I believe people should care so as to not make themselves more of a target. The more times you leave your front door unlocked, the more chances you have of being robbed. The more times your information ends up on the dark web, the more chances you have of becoming a target.”

Lock the door by protecting your information with these tips:

• Regularly change passwords every 30–60 days
• Utilize a password keeper
• Freeze lines of credit
• Get an insurance policy that protects against identity theft
• Carefully monitor online accounts and statements. 

In addition, consider gathering up your social security card, a passport, birth certificate and any other documentation verifying your identity and placing it in a secure location; that way, in case your identity is compromised, you can quickly and easily prove who you are when filing a report with law enforcement. Additional resources can be found at indentitytheft.gov.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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