How Cybersafe is your Business? Your Life?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in promoting it's National Cyber Security Awareness Month, is getting loud about the continuing threat and wave of ID theft and cyber attacks.

Just in recent days, breaches of Experian, the giant credit bureau (15 million T-Mobile customers) and Scottrade, the online brokerage (4.5 million customers) underscore that the threat level is high. I encourage your business, employees, and customers to participate in DHS’ National Cyber Security outreach. The Department of Homeland Security understands that the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things and today’s increasingly complex cyber landscape are raising your risk of ID theft and fraud.

Think about Experian about its recent data breach of 15 million T-Mobile customers. Experian, the largest credit bureau in the United States, maintains credit information on approximately 220 million U.S. consumers and 25 million active U.S. businesses. As a credit bureau, they have more financial and information technology resources than most any other business sector, and they still can’t prevent it from happening. If you think your business is completely safe from an outside hacker, an insider threat or an accidental release, think again. No one company can ever prevent itself from experiencing a data breach event.

So what can you do about it? The No. 1 answer is education and awareness.

First, understand the definition of a data breach. While there are many, here is a good one: “an incident in which sensitive, protected, or confidential data has potentially been viewed, stolen, or used by an individual unauthorized to do so. Data breaches may involve payment card information, personal health information, personally identifiable information, trade secrets or intellectual property.” Second, understand that it’s not just about big business.  The new targets are small businesses. According to the National Small Business Association, “68 percent report being a cyber victim more than once." NSBA also reported on the cost of a small business breach. In 2013, cyber attacks cost small businesses on average $8,699 per attack, the association said. This year, the number has skyrocketed to $20,752 per attack.

Finally, learn more and participate in this month’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Here are the weekly educational themes:

  • Week 1: General cyber security awareness. Focuses on cyber security as a shared responsibility and provides simple online tips to empower all Americans to be safer online.
  • Week 2: Creating a culture of cybersecurity at work.  Highlights the common threats to which businesses and employees are exposed and provides resources for business and employees to stay safer online and enhance their existing security plans.
  • Week 3: Connected communities: Staying protected while always connected. Emphasizes the importance of protecting ourselves when connecting to the Internet while on the go.
  • Week 4: Your evolving digital life. Highlights the “smart world” we live in and the importance of educating all citizens on cybersecurity as more and more of the devices we use – from phones and tablets to homes and medical devices – become connected to the Internet.
  • Week 5: Building the next generation of cyber professional.  Looks to the future of the cybersecurity workforce, focusing on cybersecurity education and awareness in schools at all levels, and emphasizing the need for properly trained cyber security professionals.

Mark's Most Important: Homeland security has done the hard work to help your business be better prepared for a likely cyber attack. Get involved and encourage your employees and customers to take advantage of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

Mark Pribish is vice president and ID-theft practice leader at Merchants Information Solutions Inc., an ID theft-background screening company based in Phoenix. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This article was originally published on and republished with the author's permission.

Merchants Information Solutions is a proud sponsor and provides financial support to the ITRC. For more information on the ITRC’s financial support relationships please see our sponsorship policy


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