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Cybercrime Costs, Vulnerabilities On the Rise

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FOSTER CITY, Calif. (10/15/13)--National Cyber Security Awareness Month marks its 10th anniversary in October. Despite considerable efforts to educate and change behavior over the past decade, consumers and software remain vulnerable to online threats ( Oct. 8).
The annual cost of cybercrime in the U.S. is $11.56 million per company, up 26% from 2012, according to the 2013 Cost of Cybercrime Study. Each year, Ponemon Institute analyzes a cross-section of companies in several industries and evaluates the prevalence and costs of cybercrime attacks. Last year's projection of a leveling off in costs didn't materialize.
As more consumers bounce from laptop to phone to tablet, they are in an "always signed in" environment. Online security has never been more important, and experts continue to stress the basics.
In a Sept. 16 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk, speaker James Lyne said if everyone followed basic online safety practices, security would be "massively improved" because most cybercrime attacks still play on preventable failures to protect personal data. Lyne offered six pointers for consumers:
  • Download the latest version. If you have out-of-date Java or PDF software, you're vulnerable. It's common for exploitive tools to use old attacks that have been fixed, so update all your software.
  • Create strong passwords. Use a string that mixes numbers, letters--both upper and lower case--and special characters, and make it eight characters long or more--a lot more. Make up a memorable sentence then use the first letter of each word as your password, with some numbers and characters thrown in for good measure. Change passwords frequently, and don't use child or pet names, your birthday or anniversary, city of birth, or favorite sports team. And use different passwords for different sites and services, or consider a password manager to help keep track of them.
  • Question everything. An e-mail claiming you just won an iPad may grab your eye, but its intent likely is to scam you and your wallet. And don't count on all online scams containing grammar and spelling mistakes as a tipoff.
  • Back it up--now. Some online attacks do irreparable damage. Save yourself severe pain with a simple and regular backup procedure.
  • Update antivirus software. Many people are running severely outdated antivirus software. Even though updated software doesn't block everything, it's one of the basic steps needed to keep your system clean.
  • Secure your mobile device. You may have secured your PC, only to put vulnerable data on a mobile device lacking any security checks at all. Android mobile phones are targeted with an increasing amount of malicious code. Many iPhone users still don't have a PIN or screen lock, and the jury is out on whether people will use the new fingerprint feature.
Protecting yourself from cybercrime requires vigilance and common sense. For a list of free computer security checks for your computer, visit staysafeonline.or and type "security check ups" in the search box.

For more information, read "FBI: Cybercriminals Using Photo-Sharing Programs" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.