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OpEd: How the Cyber-Thief Stole Christmas

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Texas Border Business

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By Justin Crossie,

Justin Crossie

Just like the economy, online shopping is booming in America.  However, a happy holiday can quickly become melancholy when a sneaky, cyber-thief slithers across your computer. The U.S. Small Business Administration reminds entrepreneurs and consumers to dodge these virtual thieves by being aware and staying alert. 

The most widely reported cyber-crime of 2018 was non-payment and non-delivery of goods and services, affecting more than 65,000 Americans who lost over $183 million dollars, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report

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Texas ranks number two on the FBI’s list of states with the highest number of reported cyber victims in 2018.  These victims suffered about $200 million in losses. 

Nationwide, people over the age of 50 make up the largest number of reported victims in 2018, with losses in excess of a billion dollars. 

The cost of cyber-crimes reached $2.7 billion in 2018, according to the FBI which investigates cyber-attacks by criminals, overseas adversaries and terrorists.  The Agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reports on and tracks trending scams. IC3 receives about 900 complaints daily. 

More than ever cyber-crooks are targeting business and personal emails, and tricking users into revealing confidential information. These were the costliest cybercrimes in 2018, snatching nearly $1.3 billion from unsuspecting victims, according to the FBI. 

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Through the years, the scam has seen personal emails compromised, vendor emails compromised, spoofed lawyer email accounts, requests for W-2 information, and the targeting of the real estate sector.

Small businesses can be easy targets for sneaky cyber offenders because they typically lack the security infrastructure of larger businesses.  A recent SBA survey found 88% of small business owners felt their business was vulnerable to a cyber-attack. Yet many businesses can’t afford professional IT solutions, they have limited time to devote to cybersecurity, or they don’t know where to begin.

In Texas there are 2.7 million small businesses with 4.7 million employees. 

Fortunately, congress passed the “Main Street Cybersecurity Act” two years ago, recognizing that small firms need clear, concise and cost-conscious cybersecurity guidance and solutions.  The recent law requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to spearhead this mission. Entrepreneurs can visit NIST’s Small Business Cybersecurity Corner for more information.

The SBA offers small business owners a 30-minute self-paced training course that defines cybersecurity, identifies types of cyber threats and the types of information that should be secured and explores cybersecurity best practices.

As you continue your holiday shopping selling, make sure to practice good cyber hygiene.  Use updated antivirus software, make sure you are visiting secure shopping sites, avoid clicking pop-up links, and use strong passwords that include letters, numbers and special characters such as @, $ and &.  

While it’s hard to melt the heart of a cyber-thief and get him to return Christmas, you can stop him in his tracks by being vigilant, and ensure your holiday remains merry.  For more information, visit www.sba.gov.

(Justin Crossie is the regional administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s South Central Region VI, serving, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. The SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses with resources to start, grow, expand or recover.)

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