Cyber security expert shares tips for staying safe online
Douglas Frey would rather be safe than sorry.
“I shred everything,” Frey told the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce during its biweekly luncheon Nov. 15 at the Eagle River Ale House.
Frey is a vice president at Northrim Bank, where he’s in charge of security and business continuity. It’s a job that puts Frey in constant contact with some of the worst actors on the Internet — and there’s a lot of them out there.
“The threats that we face are constantly changing,” Frey told the chamber.
Cyber security has changed dramatically in recent years, he explained, due to a shift in the way criminals operate. In the “old days,” hackers would break into systems just for the fun of it, or to make a political statement. Now, they’re doing it for profit.
“They’re after the money now, they no longer want to just make a statement,” he said.
Criminals have an almost limitless number of ways to exploit computers for financial gain, he said, running the gamut from identity theft to extortion. Hackers can sell personal medical data on the dark web, for example, or lock up someone’s computer until they pay a ransom.
Frey said one of the biggest targets for hackers are small- and medium-sized businesses because they often have lax security measures in place.
“Hackers are organized, but they’re lazy,” he said.
He said cyber crime has gotten so sophisticated that some hackers now operate call centers to help their victims process payments using crypto currency like Bitcoin. And it’s so common that people don’t even need to know how to attack someone themselves — hacking services can now be contracted out on the “dark web.”
“They’ll go ahead and attack the targets for you,” he said.
While the loss of company data or threat of extortion can be terrifying for small business owners and individuals, Frey said there are ways to limit exposure to cyber crime. Some obvious ways to stay safe online, he said, include the use of password phrases and encrypted passwords, backing up data frequently and never clicking on unfamiliar or odd looking links. Software patches should be installed as soon as they’re available, he said, and companies should invest in a strong “endpoint solution” security system rather than relying on basic antivirus software.
Constant vigilance, he said, is key.
“Just don’t be lulled,” he said.
Individuals should also be wary of their online footprints and limit the amount of personal information they share on social media.
“I’m telling you people, watch your digital footprint,” he said.
Frey suggested anyone who wants to know more about staying safe online should visit the FBI (fbi.gov) or Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov) online, as well as the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (us-cert.gov), whose mission is to work toward “a safer, stronger Internet for all Americans by responding to major incidents, analyzing threats, and exchanging critical cybersecurity information with trusted partners around the world.”