You Could Be Inviting Cyber-Criminals Into Your Workplace

cyber criminalsHere's yet another good reason to limit your personal email and Internet usage at work and keep everything strictly business: You could be exposing your company to serious cyber-crime. In fact, certain industries are being specifically targeted, and if you're in one of them you should never click on a deal that seems too good to be true while you're at work.

This was brought to national attention when Internet Security Awareness Training (ISAT) firm KnowBe4 released new cyber-crime statistics that identify the nation's most phishing-prone industry sectors -- the ones most susceptible to cyber-crime ploys. The top five vulnerable industries include travel, education, financial services, government services and IT services.

These findings are based on a recent phishing experiment KnowBe4 conducted among small and medium enterprises (SMEs). KnowBe4 sent out a simulated phishing email to employees at more than 3,500 companies. Individuals who clicked the link were directed to a landing page that informed them they had just taken part in phishing research.

"Any business that provides access to email or access to its networks via the Internet is only as safe from cybercrime to the degree that its employees are trained to avoid phishing emails and other cyberheist schemes. The more employees within an organization that use email or go online, the greater the risk of exposure to cyber-crime," says KnowBe4 founder and CEO Stu Sjouwerman.

In other words, just by clicking on what looks like a hot deal or irresistible opportunity at work, you could be exposing your company's database to cyber-criminals. "Not only are these businesses at risk for financial loss through a cyber-heist, but their susceptibility to phishing tactics could compromise sensitive customer data, such as credit card, bank account and Social Security numbers."

Sjouwerman, who recently published a book designed to help companies fight cybercrime, "Cyberheist: The Biggest Financial Threat Facing American Businesses," cites a "false sense of security" as the primary reason that companies are vulnerable to cyber-crime.

"Most people assume that antivirus software and an in-house IT team provide sufficient data security," he says. "But considering that IT is among the most phish-prone industries, it's clear that's a very dangerous assumption to make."

But it's not just the people fooling around online that expose their companies to cyber-crime via email. Cyber-criminals have become very sophisticated in their tactics and often target businesses through official-looking emails that appear to be sent by government agencies, business partners or even company executives. "Many of the top phish-prone industries are regulated and subject to compliance rules, so well-meaning employees can be tricked into clicking a link if they believe an email was sent by a government or law enforcement agency, or by someone they know and trust. And with just one click, malware can be instantly uploaded to a system -- bypassing both antivirus software and IT firewalls. A cyberheist can be underway within minutes."

According to YourMoneyIsNotSafeInTheBank.org, small-business accounts suffered more than $40 million in cyber-crime losses in one year. The website also cites FDIC figures indicating that this type of crime increased fivefold within a 12-month period, and notes that the FBI is tracking hundreds of related cases. Small and medium-size organizations have become the primary targets of the Eastern European hacker gangs behind this frightening new crime wave. These cybercriminals tend to prey on smaller businesses and banks that lack the cyber-fraud controls that many larger institutions have in place.

Next: How Much Information is too Much?

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