Following recent data exposures that have impacted companies and organizations nationwide and locally, area experts are offering suggestions to keep data safe for companies and individuals.
From individuals who can have their bank account information compromised online, to data exposures at Betenbough Homes, JBS meatpacking and other large companies like Colonial Pipeline, seemingly nobody is immune from the threats posed by hackers and other criminals.
Cyber security threats are at the highest level that they have ever been, and having all the safeguards in place is crucial in today’s age, TJ Boren, chief technology officer at Integrated Axis Group, a Lubbock-based managed service provider and technology solutions company.
The most important thing a company can have is a disaster recovery plan. Taking advantage of cyber security offerings is a fairly new concept to many businesses, but it’s one of the best ways to safeguard private information, Boren said.
A lot of breaches happen due to lack of knowledge, so its important for company staff – and even individuals – to go through cybersecurity awareness training.
Sam Segran, Chief Information Officer and Vice President for IT at Texas Tech, said cyber criminals have been around for a long time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wakeup call.
A lot of people lost jobs here in the U.S. and other countries and they became newer cyber criminals, Segran said.
There is an increase in ransomware attacks, where the cyber criminals are encrypting sensitive data of companies for money, and they may or may not give the decryption key. Those exposures often come with threats like publishing the sensitive data of companies or individuals, Segran said.
Companies must protect the data both for the sake of customers and to survive as a business, he said.
Segran shared various tips like having screen lock passwords of six digits – not just four – enabled for phones and having multifactor authentication for passwords on devices and programs for both personal use and businesses.
Avoiding exposure can also be as simple as going to a company website when purchasing any product rather than clicking on unexpected URLs or ads sent on social media.
“Don’t respond to things you don’t know or you don’t expect,” Segran said. “Don’t click on anything, even if it’s something a friend recommends.”
Both for businesses and personal use, backing up data is another crucial step. Apart from having a good cloud provider for backups, having a backup off the network like a terabyte drive can be helpful, he said.
For people using credit cards, it’s important to have a multifactor authentication and credit card alerts, which can send the account holder an alert if the card is unexpectedly used overseas or if it spends more than a certain amount, Segran said.
“In my case, if I spend a penny from my credit card I’ll get an alert – so I get a lot of alerts but that’s OK because I know I’m spending”, he said.
But Segran acknowledged most people do not like to be bothered frequently, so they tend to set a larger amount like $100, or $500 to get alerts. But when your credit card information is compromised, the cyber criminals are are going to try very small amounts at first to test the card and people often miss that.
“The issue is always about convenience versus security,” he said. “How convenient do you want it to be and how secure you want it to be. You gotta make those calls.”
Texas Tech University has maintained a Cyber Security Awareness program for the community since 2005 at https://www.ttu.edu/cybersecurity/lubbock/.
“It’s a program that we actually publish for the Lubbock area, for people who live in the community. And we have tips over there for them,” Segran said.