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Friday, February 22, 2019

Is There a Digital Data Disaster in Your Future?

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy of Pixabay
A few weeks ago. I wrote a blog that explained a number of ways to fortify your home and office against thieves.  Like it or not, there are people out there who will be glad to relinquish you of your cash and other valuables.  Whether we’re talking about a burglar breaking into your home or a mugger pulling a pistol on the street to demand your wallet, theft is something that most people take for granted until they become a victim.  As I pointed out in an “HomeSecurity is Nothing to Sneeze At,” the best way to avoid becoming a victim is not to look like easy prey.  By that, I mean the more secure your home is, the less likely it is to be targeted by burglars.  The more cognizant of what’s going on around you, the less likely you are to get mugged.

The problem is, there’s one brand of crime that’s so insidious and polished that most people are woefully unprepared for it.  This kind of crime isn’t an in-your-face stickup.  It takes place via remote control.  The perpetrators can be in your hometown or on the other side of the planet.  For the most part if you fall into this kind of criminal trap, neither the police nor the FBI will lift a finger to help you.  Last but not least, this kind of crime can relieve you of far more assets than any burglar or stickup artist can steal.  I’m talking about cybercrime.

1.      How big of a problem is cybercrime? – On a strictly dollars and cents basis, cybercrime is expected to top $3 Trillion in 2019.  Even worse, according to a report by the E-Commerce Times, “By 2021, cybercrime will cost $6 trillion which could represent the greatest transfer of wealth in history. Cybercrime soon will be more profitable than the global illegal trade of all the major drug cartels combined.”

2.      Easy Peasy – The reason cybercrime has exploded worldwide within the last few years is simple: It’s easy.  Hackers have access to suites of turnkey tools designed to breach everything from personal computers and tablets to smartphones and routers.  Want to infect a Wi-Fi hotspot?  There’s an app for that.  Looking to cash in on other people’s credit cards without working up a sweat?  You can buy credit card skimmers online for a couple hundred dollars. 

Image courtesy of flickr
3.      Who’s Minding the Mint – If you think local law enforcement is going to ride to your rescue if your computer comes down with a case of ransomware, or your bank account is rifled by hackers, think again.  Since the majority of hackers are located in foreign countries, not only is local law enforcement unable to help catch the bad guys, so are the feds.  Case in Point: In 2017 when two police stations in Georgia had their servers infected with ransomware, the only advice the FBI gave them was to “Pay the ransom.”  The problem is, even if you do pay up, that doesn’t necessarily mean the hackers will release your hard drive unharmed.  They may simply leave your data in encryption hell, or worse, they could erase the drive or embed yet more malware. 

4.      Acting like an Ostrich isn’t Going to Save You – While most folks deal with the epidemic of hacking by sticking their heads in the sand, this isn’t the best defense.  In fact, it’s no defense at all.  I’m sure all of you have read about cases where hacking collectives have breached everything from banks and big box stores to credit card processing companies.  If they have the capability of getting through professional grade firewalls, what makes you think they can’t touch you?  The sad fact is that millions of unsuspecting Americans will feel the wrath of hackers this year.  That’s because they’re ill-prepared to defend their data. 

5.      Low Hanging Fruit – Most people don’t even recognize they’re vulnerable.  That’s because many still harbor old-fashioned notions about what constitutes a computer.  Do you own a smartphone?  I hate to break it to you, but it’s not a phone.  It’s a computer.  If you use your smartphone to shop online or transact business with your bank, it’s a digital treasure trove of financial data that’s ripe for the picking.  All a hacker has to do to breach your smartphone is send you an email or text that purportedly comes from your cellphone provider promising an update.  Click on the link and the thieves are in.  Business networks are equally vulnerable to hacking, since all that has to happen is for one employee’s device to get hacked to gain access to all your systems.

Image courtesy Pixabay
6.      Don’t Complain About Being Robbed if You let the Burglars In – Unfortunately there are 101 ways for hackers to gain access to your devices. Another way to gain access is to infect your Wi-Fi or a public Wi-Fi hotspot with malware.  Logging into a poisoned hotspot will soon put you on the hotseat.  While I don’t have the space here to tell you about the many ways in which hackers can easily invade the sanctity of your devices, suffice it to say they spend way more time learning how to get to you than you spend trying to ward them off.

7.      The Best Defense – Carl von Clausewitz, the great Prussian military theorist said that the best defense is a good offense.  While that might be true, the sad fact is most people and small businesses have little or no defense against cybercrime.  That’s because most people have either failed to shore up their defenses by running two or more antimalware software packages simultaneously on their devices.  Or they failed to update all the software that’s being run on their devices.  Many continue to do dangerous things like clicking on suspect links or opening emails and replying to texts from people they don’t know.  Heck, most Americans tell the public way too much about their private lives on the social nets.

If you want to keep from having an expensive digital data disaster in your future, you need to bone up on the latest techniques and technologies designed to make it harder for cybercriminals to break into your devices.  You also should get to know an IT professional who can steam clean your devices and bolster your defenses at least once a year.  If you own a business, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to talk to your friendly, local insurance agent to inquire about cyber insurance that can help you deal with any breach your company’s digital infrastructure may face in the future.  Remember, all that sticking your head in the sand does is give the bad guys a clear shot at your exposed neck.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on your auto insurance, check out her website at


  1. Take a byte out of cybercrime before it takes a bite out of you.

  2. Cybercrime is a looming danger hanging over the head of anyone who uses a digital device of any kind. Make sure you take steps to protect your devices.


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