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Tampa, top hacking target, to get expert help

What can business owners do to protect themselves against cybercrime, which one recent study says cost U.S. companies nearly an average annualized $13 million last year? Especially in Tampa, a city another study said is among the most hacked in the nation?

Create virtual “safe rooms” where they can store their most important information away from access by the internet and the cybercriminals who use it for nefarious purposes.

That’s the advice from Daimon Geopfert, a former Air Force computer crimes analyst who served as director in information protection for KPMG and security operations center manager for SAIC. Geopfert, who now serves as a national leader for information technology security and privacy consulting for McGladrey Inc., will moderate “America Under Attack: A Cyber Security Panel in America’s Most Hacked City.”

The panel, hosted by McGladrey, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Tampa Theater. It will bring business leaders and cyber security experts from around the country to discuss the latest threats, how to protect systems and minimize the damage.

Aside from Geopfert, the panel includes representatives from Akerman LLP, Aon Risk Solutions, Tampa General Hospital and JP Morgan Chase.

Tampa is among the most hacked cities in America, according to a study by Enigma Software, a Clearwater company. Geopfert surmises that’s due to a combination of an older population unfamiliar with computer security, younger people quick to jump on computers without taking the proper precautions and less affluent people who can’t afford the latest equipment or security systems.

For businesses, cybercrime is an expensive proposition.

“The average time to resolve a cyber attack was 45 days, with an average cost to participating organizations of $1.6 million during this period,” according to a study last year by the Ponemon Institute. Their study also showed that the $12.7 million average annualized cost of these crimes increased 9.3 percent from the previous year.

Geopfer said that to help avoid being victimized, the first thing companies should do “is figure out what is in your business that if someone stole, broke, or made unavailable to you, that would put out of business or cause you a lot of pain.”

The next step, he said, is to “figure out what those things are and lock them down. Figure out what you need to protect and get it away from the rest of the system.”

The panel, designed for business of all types and sizes, will address issues ranging from what attackers are doing to how many incidents there are a month,

Social engineering (techniques that trick users into allowing access to a system), client-side attacks and custom malware are currently the three main tactics being used by cyber criminals, said Geopfert, with web application attacks also high on the list.

“If you take the big three, that represents 70 to 80 percent of the breaches we have worked,” said Geopfert.

Like a game of whack-a-mole, the threats morph as security designers find new protections, said Geopfert, causing cybercriminals to find new vulnerabilities.

Even the military is vulnerable. In January, the Twitter and YouTube accounts belonging to U.S. Central Command were temporarily taken over by a group calling itself the CyberCaliphate and claiming allegiance to the Islamic State jihadi group. No classified networks were affected, but the attack garnered a great deal of attention.

Enigma Software says there are many threats to be concerned about, including:

♦ Adware or advertising-supported software that automatically plays, displays or downloads advertisements to a computer after the software is installed on it or while the application is being used. Some types of adware are also spyware and can be classified as privacy-invasive software.

♦ A backdoor (also known as a trap door or wormhole) in a computer system bypassing normal authentication, securing remote access to a computer, obtaining access to plaintext while attempting to remain undetected.

♦ A browser hijacker (sometimes called hijackware) program that alters your computer’s browser settings so that you are redirected to Web sites that you had no intention of visiting.

♦ Fake warning messages (sometimes referred to as fake error messages or fake security alerts) — deceptive notifications that usually appear in the form of pop-ups and are used by many malware creators in an attempt to trick you into downloading potentially harmful programs.

♦ Flooders are malicious programs that attempt to overload a connection by sending various intrusive attacks, in order to make a computer resource unavailable to its intended user.

♦ Malicious websites are described as multiple, overlapping browser windows, some of which contain no indication of their origins. An attacker could arrange windows in.

Malware (or malicious software) is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner’s informed consent. The expression is a general term used by computer professionals to mean a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive or annoying software or program code. The term “computer virus” is sometimes used as a catch-all phrase to include all types of malware including true viruses.

*Phishing — the criminal fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

♦ Spyware is computer software that is installed surreptitiously on a personal computer to collect information about a user, their computer or browsing habits without the user’s informed consent.

♦ Worms — a self-replicating computer program using a network to send copies of itself to other nodes. Many worms that have been created are only designed to spread, and don’t attempt to alter the systems they pass through. A “payload,” however, is code designed to do more than spread the worm it might delete files on a host system, encrypt files in a cryptoviral extortion attack, or send documents via e-mail. A very common payload for worms is to install a backdoor in the infected computer to allow the creation of a zombie (an Internet accessible computer compromised by a hacker) under control of the worm author. Networks of such machines are often referred to as botnets and are very commonly used by spam senders for sending junk email or to cloak their website’s address.

For more information about the panel and to register, go to http://mcgladrey.com/content/mcgladrey/en_US/events/america-under-attack.html.

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

Twitter: @haltman

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