We are all under attack.
Cybercrime is skyrocketing in the U.S., fueled by the ever-expanding realm of online services. This digital boom makes personal details — names, Social Security numbers, and birth dates — irresistible targets for hackers. Using this data on the dark web has become big business for cybercriminals.
Meanwhile, small businesses are often in the crosshairs.
Cybersecurity is always top of mind for Carol O’Neill — Senior Vice President of Operations Risk Management at Firstrust Bank — not just in October, Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but all year round. Having been in banking for more than 40 years, she has seen it all, from counterfeiting, identity theft, loan scams, and phishing to check and credit card fraud. And the fraudsters have only become more sophisticated over time.
“The people perpetrating these crimes are certainly professionals,” said O’Neill. “Their skills advance with the times.”
Technology is deeply intertwined with our lives. And while the evolution of technology accelerates, cybercriminals are working just as hard to find ways to compromise technology and disrupt personal and business life.
“Fraud in general is just proliferating,” said O’Neill.
Every business is a treasure trove for hackers, whether it’s data, intellectual property, or cash they’re after. While no company is immune to cyber threats, small businesses often find themselves the prime targets. Simply put, they’re low-hanging fruit. Lacking the robust security measures and tech-savvy staff of larger enterprises, small businesses offer hackers an easier payday.
“The most important thing a business can do is to put some effort and energy into understanding that they are a target, and there are things that they can do to protect themselves,” said Peggy Leimkuhler, Firstrust Bank’s Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer. “It’s very important for businesses to have discipline around cybersecurity, including proper training for employees, automated tools for protection, and cyber insurance.”
In addition to cybercrime, check washing — whereby criminals steal a check from a mailbox, then wash it with chemicals to keep the signature and erase the amount and recipient’s name — is on the rise. After washing a check, criminals write in a new amount and address the check to themselves, an accomplice, or a fraudulent identity they created and deposit the check into an account they control.
“For as long as I’ve been in banking, people have been saying that checks are going to go away,” said O’Neill. “They not only haven’t, but check fraud is probably the most significant type of fraud we see in terms of volume.”
Now in its 20th year, Cybersecurity Awareness Month, held each October, aims to raise awareness about cybersecurity and to maintain a cyberspace that is both safe and resilient. This year’s theme is “Secure Our World,” with the main messaging revolving around four key cybersecurity best practices:
- Understanding the benefits of using a password manager and dispelling existing myths around password manager security and ease of use.
- Turning on multifactor authentication on personal devices and business networks.
- Recognizing and reporting phishing.
- Installing updates on a regular basis and turning on automated updates.
“Firstrust Bank places a strong emphasis on cybersecurity,” said O’Neill, adding that cybersecurity is not merely a technical requirement but a core competency that every individual and business should integrate into their daily lives and operations. “Having cyber-awareness will keep you from becoming a victim.”
Learn more about Firstrust Bank.