You just downloaded the latest security software on your PC. So, now you're safe from hackers, right? It used to be that you could go to Staples, Office Max, or Best Buy and purchase the latest and greatest security software and you were protected. Today, if you believe that, you've being lulled into a false sense of security.
When you talk about a hacker, many people imagine a 30-something-year-old guy, with over average intelligence, limited social skills, and still living in his parent's basement. Unfortunately, that isn't the case anymore.
Recent reports about Chinese hackers have inundated all of the media outlets. State sponsored hacking is a serious issue and poses grave danger to our national security and the economy of the United States.
According to the U.S. government, more than 33 percent of computer attacks in the third quarter of 2012 originated in China. According to the New York Times, the Chinese are targeting government, military, and commercial interests such as Telvent, a company with remote access to over 60 percent of America's oil and gas pipelines. In addition, Chinese hackers have also targeted U.S. businesses with the goal of stealing proprietary information. This information is retooled and used to compete against the very businesses it was stolen from in the global market.
This is scary stuff, but you're not the U.S. government or even a large company with offices in Shanghai. You're just a small- to medium-sized business, and don't need to worry about it.
Unfortunately, that's not the case either. While the cyber war rages with state sponsored hacking, the little guy can't rest easy. According to Verizon, analysis of hundreds of data breaches in 2010 found that 63 percent of them happened at companies that had 100 or fewer employees.
So, who is safe? The unfortunate answer is nobody. What do we do? Disconnect from the global information grid? That's not an acceptable solution for any business, large or small.
On the other side of the fence, not protecting your data isn't a solution either. This is quite a quandary. It has been said that the only completely secure data system is one that is still in the box. In the past, many business executives, managers, and owners considered computer security a hole to throw money into. Even though this attitude is shifting, small- and medium-sized businesses don't usually have the resources of the big boys and the federal government. That doesn't mean you should throw up your hands and throw caution to the wind. It is understood that it's difficult to keep up with technology, but protecting your business against a criminal hacker is every bit as important as protecting big business proprietary information, or government infrastructure.
The challenge is daunting, but one thing to remember is security is security whether it's traditional (gates, locks, alarms and guards) or cyber. The same principle applies. Criminals want a soft target. If small and medium businesses secure their systems and networks better than the other guy, chances are hackers will move to easier targets. When it comes to protecting your businesses information, it doesn't pay to be penny wise and dollar foolish.