Information Is an Asset and You Should Protect It Like Money

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Shawn Main
Shawn Main

By Shawn Main

Texas Border Business

October was National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) which provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about safe computing.   If people began to think about information the same way that they think about money, cybersecurity threats might be far less pervasive than they are today.  Did you know that in the 2016 Verizon data breach report, 13% of all employees in companies clicked and opened files or links in a phishing email?  Out of that same report, 80% of those attempted breaches were motivated by financial gain, with 95% of those breaches being motivated by obtaining data for exploitation of the intended target.

Ransomware, one of the most popular methods used by cyber criminals, steals and encrypts files to obtain funds from a victim by promising return of the information if they pony up!  Another example is the theft of credentials (passwords / other information) used to gain access to financial platforms like online banking in order to steal funds from a victim.  In all cases, the initial intent is not the direct theft of money, but rather the theft of information that indirectly leads to financial gain.

As we move into 2018, you should be mindful and thoughtful about how you not only handle phishing emails, but also about how you handle your own personal information.  The most important asset that you have to protect is not just the money in your wallet, but the information that you have about yourself that you have stored in the cyber world or in easily accessible locations.  That information is more valuable to criminals than the tangible monetary assets in your wallet and bank accounts.  It can be used more broadly for financial exploitation and can cause irreparable harm to you and your family if it gets into the wrong hands.  Your business, your life, your career and your reputation could be at stake, even if you were not directly at fault for the loss of that information.  (Think about the latest Equifax breach and the impact that this will have on every citizen in the United States.)

So, with that preface, try to continually think to yourself, “Am I protecting my information like I protect my money?”  This same philosophy applies not only to your personal information but also to the information that you safeguard for your family, friends, and your customers.  You should always be thinking about the information that you have, who else has it, and what is being done with it.  You must also consider how you protect that information while “at rest” (at your desk, as paper, on a thumb drive) or while “in transit” (via courier, via email, via a web portal).

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If information was money, would you not protect it like you do money?  If you have money “at rest” (in your pocket or at home in a safe) do you not lock it up?  If you transport money, especially large amounts, do you not have it delivered via armored car, tucked away in your pockets, or hidden securely in a locked briefcase?  Much like money, the data and the information we safeguard should be protected.  Be mindful of your information as we move into 2018 and do everything you can to safeguard your information assets.

Shawn Main is the Chief Information Officer and a Senior Vice President for Vantage Bank Texas. Mr. Main began his banking career with McMullen State Bank in 1996.  He held a variety of positions in bank operations, system administration, and as Information Security Officer until 2004.

In 2004, he was recruited by Rackspace Managed Hosting, where he served in various technical and managerial capacities. In 2007, Mr. Main returned to banking and helped build a 12-branch network across Texas.  Mr. Main graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems from UTSA.