February 2, 2010

Be on Guard When Online


Hostway Team

By Paul Davis

The Defense Department reported that in the last six months they have spent more than $100 million responding to cyber attacks and repairing the damage caused by intrusions to the military’s networks.

Air Force General Kevin P. Chilton, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), speaking at the inaugural Cyberspace Symposium on April 7th in Omaha, Nebraska, stressed the importance of the cyberspace domain to the nearly 1, 500 attendees.

USSTRATCOM is responsible for space operations, information warfare, missile defense, and strategic deterrence. The command ensures U.S. freedom of action in both space and cyberspace.

Chilton, a former test pilot and astronaut, said that the Defense Department sees more than a million suspicious “hits" a day.

“These are pings where someone is coming in and trying to open something or access information from someone within our military networks,” Chilton told the American Forces Press Service. “This could be everything from some curious citizens, to people who maybe are trying to hack for sport, to people who are trying to collect information.”

Chilton said that USSTRATCOM is concerned about “data mining,” which is where hackers use computers to sift through enormous quantities of data to glean information. Chilton called this the new form of espionage.

“In the past, to get that information you would hire someone to break in with a flashlight in their teeth and go through the drawer and photograph the files,” Chilton said. “Now all this information is stored on discs or on computers. Spies don’t have to leave a computer terminal in their own countries to try to get this information.”

During my tenure as the administrative officer of a Defense Department command in Philadelphia I was for a time responsible for computer security along with all other security programs. Thankfully, I had some very bright and technologically proficient people on my team. They knew our systems, understood computer security, and they recognized the threats to our command.

But Defense Department systems are not the only ones at risk. Hackers routinely penetrate businesses large and small and steal data for fun and profit, as I’ve noted here in this column before.

As small business owners generally lack the technology and the technical ability of the Defense Department’s cyber cops, what can a small business do?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a hand via their OnGuardOnline program. The FTC and a partnership that includes cyber security experts, online marketers, consumer advocates and federal officials began the program in 2005.

The Web site, www.onguardonline.gov, offers practical tips, articles, videos, interactive activities, games and free, downloadable material that will help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.

OnGuardOnline offers solid advice on such topics as:

  • How to recognize Internet scams
  • How to shop and conduct business securely online
  • How to avoid hackers and viruses
  • How to deal with spam, spyware, and phishing

You can visit www.onguardonline.gov/topics/computer-security.aspx to learn about seven vital security practices:

  • 1. Protect your personal information. It’s valuable.
  • 2. Know who you’re dealing with.
  • 3. Use security software that updates automatically.
  • 4. Keep your operating system and Web browser up-to-date and learn about their security features.
  • 5. Keep your passwords safe, secure and strong.
  • 6. Back up important files.
  • 7. Learn what to do in an “e – mergency.”

If you suspect Internet fraud you can register a complaint using a form at www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database utilized by law enforcement officials in the U.S. and overseas.

Small business owners, like Air Force generals, should be concerned about the wide range of computer attacks and they should take steps to prevent them.

About the Author

Paul Davis writes for www.BusinessKnowHow.com, a popular small business Web site that provides ideas and strategies for growing a business and making it profitable. The site attracts 3 million visitors a year, contains thousands of free articles about sales, marketing, Internet marketing, business finance, ecommerce and all phases of starting and growing small and home businesses. Visit Business Know-How and sign up for their free newsletter at www.BusinessKnowHow.com.

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