Internet and cell phone users are part of the problem when it comes to cyber attacks, but users can also be part of the solution. Cyber security expert Scott Schober urges us to become informed and follow best practices, steps that everyone can take to protect themselves and their companies.
Schober, who was once a victim of hacking himself, is the president and CEO of the wireless security technology firm, Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVS) and is a media producer, frequent television and radio show guest, and author of the book “Hacked Again.” He and John Verry of PivotPoint Security will lead a panel discussion on practical solutions for protecting your business at an upcoming technology seminar in West Windsor.
Titled “Disrupt or Be Disrupted,” the event is sponsored by the Technology Business Alliance of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and is the organization’s first annual technology summit. The event takes place Thursday, March 30, at the Conference Center at Mercer, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Register online at princetonchamber.org and follow the event link or call 609-924-1776. Tickets are $40; $50 for nonmembers.
The summit features two keynote speakers. Simon Nynens of Wayside Technology Group will give a presentation titled “The Cloud: What is It and Why do I Need It?” Roy Mehta of CoolR Group will give a talk titled “The Internet of Things: The World is Becoming More Connected.”
There will be two mid-morning break-out groups: the above-mentioned cyber security panel, and a session titled “Big Data & Analytics: Leveraging Your Data for a More Competitive Advantage” led by Jeff Evernham of Sinequa and Jeff Marcus of Sparkway.
“Americans experienced an eye opener earlier this month,” Schober says, referring to news reports about the CIA’s ability to access private information with advanced software tools and WikiLeaks’ related document dumps. The news raised public awareness, but it also created confusion, Schober says. While he does not believe the CIA is interested in targeting the typical American, his concern is that malware and compromised documents are in the hands of hackers. “Having these tools available to individuals or countries that may want to engage in cyber espionage is a problem. That’s where all the antennas should be going up,” he says.
Reports of Russians hacking the election have also been confusing to the public. “Was there disruption caused by Russian hackers? In my opinion, yes, but I emphasize the word ‘disruption,’” Schober says. “I don’t think they monkeyed with the voting machines. These devices are not connected to the internet, and it would be very difficult to hack the physical machines.”
Schober has found that hacking is practiced by groups abroad that have migrated away from physical engagement with guns and drugs because there would be evidence if they were caught. Hacking costs less money up front and offers lucrative pay. Also, it’s very hard to catch the perpetrator. “You don’t hear about many arrests of hackers,” Schober says.
As the president of Metuchen-based BVS, Schober oversees the design, production, and sales of wireless test and security devices for cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other modulated radio frequency signals for engineers, technicians and installers. BVS provides tools to cyber security groups, most of which are with Department of Defense agencies abroad.
Schober’s father founded BVS 44 years ago, and both his parents ran the company for many years. His father retired about 15 years ago, and today Scott heads BVS with several years of experience, a degree in computer science from Kean University and graduate courses in telecommunications from New York University. His brother is in charge of media at BVS, and among other responsibilities, handles the camera, editing and sound work for Schober’s “Cyber Security Briefing” show.
“Hackers have plenty of time on their hands, and they can gather tons of information that you’re putting out there,” Schober says, but he emphasizes that we, as users, have a great deal of control in preventing their intrusions. “People should not view cyber security and hacking as intimidating. If you institute best practices and common sense, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to be secure.”
#b#Schober’s Tips For Your Cyber Security#/b#
Are you aware of your digital footprint on social media? Many people unintentionally give too much information to potential hackers. An example would be using a security challenge question that helps hackers identify you, like the name of your high school. Scott Schober suggests using a question that only you could answer. He also suggests that you never give your actual date of birth when setting up social media accounts, and not geotagging the photos that you share.
Do you use free, unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots? When you use free Wi-Fi at hotels or cafes, you’re vulnerable to hackers who can set up Wi-Fi spots with fake names. If you connect to one of those spots, hackers can pull your contacts, content and email messages.
They can install malware like a keylogger that can record every keystroke you make. Later, when you’re home doing online banking, the malware could be recording your IDs and financial information. “That’s how hackers work,” Schober says. “They place things and might let them sit, a day, a month, a year, before they try to take advantage of the victim.”
Schober recommends purchasing your own mobile hot spot, so you can host your own Wi-Fi connection. Another option would be to check with the cafe or hotel associate to ensure that the Wi-Fi spot with their name is legitimate and that it is password protected. He also recommends installing anti-key logger software on your mobile device.
Do you use a private code to log in to your mobile device? If not, you’re making it easy for a hacker to access your device and install malware, which takes only 15 to 20 seconds to do. Schober recommends using a PIN to log in.
Do you leave your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth turned on all the time? If so, you’re discoverable when you’re not using them. Schober’s advice: Turn them off when not in use.
Do you use Gmail or Yahoo mail? If so, be aware that your content is being analyzed and sold by tech companies, so third parties can use it to target you with ads.
Do you make your personal accounts easy to hack because your passwords are short and simple? Schober recommends long and strong passwords, and for greater safety, creating an additional layer of protection, like using an encrypted password or using two-factor authentication at the login points. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and most companies provide multifactor authentication, he says.
Because stronger passwords are hard to remember, many security experts recommend using password manager software on your Internet devices. These programs automatically store login information for various websites for you, and automatically generate and keep track of your passwords.
Do you ignore or delay installing your vendors’ updates and fixes? Schober recommends installing them automatically or as soon as they become available because the vendor often issues them to correct a vulnerability they have become aware of.
Do you open yourself to email phishing attacks by clicking on attachments from sources you don’t know? Despite well-known warnings against this, many people do it anyway. Don’t do it.
Schober provides more details on the above tips on his website: scottschober.com.