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Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020.

Get to Know Scott Augenbaum

Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020.

As the holiday frenzy settles and the New Year has arrived, reflections and resolutions fill our thoughts with positive incentives for change. What better time to set our upcoming goals than New Year’s Day?

Well, like a lot of you, I’m not so good at this. I can’t say I don’t get frustrated thinking about this year’s goals, as there were so many I didn’t accomplish last year. Good thing I get another chance!

Before I play into my frustrations, I need to enjoy the victory of so many wonderful things that I accomplished in 2019. My book, The Secret to Cybersecurity, sold over 10,000 copies, received a plethora of five-star reviews on Amazon, and was even listed as one of the Top 10 Cybersecurity Books to Read in 2020.

I provided roughly 50 presentations on my headlining book tour, which brought me to cities all over the United States and Canada (how cool to be an international speaker). I never thought I’d be doing what I do now; that is, crushing the goal I set out when I retired from the FBI just two years ago. I truly get to do what I love, by sharing my experiences and teaching people how not to be the next cybercrime victim.

However, there were a lot more victories than my own  this past year. With as many data breaches as there were, it makes you wonder how many cybercriminals got rich off of the tangled webs they weaved. Furthermore, even if you haven’t become a statistic of these breaches; it doesn’t mean you won’t, since the information they’ve taken could be used in the years to come. These data breaches result in innocent, hard working people becoming the next victims of Identity Theft. It’s awful and it can span generations.

That’s not even enough for the everyday con-criminal. It’s not just people like us, or even large companies, they target. Entire states have succumbed to these criminals. We’ve seen the State of Louisiana, declare a State of Emergency after being victimized by ransomware. The FBI reported that the impacts of the dreaded Business Email Compromise went from $13 billion in losses in 2018 to $26 billion in losses in 2019. They are doubling their profits, while  no resolution is offered. Something doesn’t add up.

As the cybercrime problem gets worse, individuals and organizations continue to throw money at the problem at an alarming rate. Steve Morgan of Cybersecurity Ventures reports the total global cost of Cybersecurity spending will exceed $6 trillion by 2021. That’s a 1200% increase in the past five years.

We all know what it means when we spend money on solutions and the problems get worse; the solutions aren’t working.

It doesn’t mean the products or services are bad. It simply means that throwing money at the problem isn’t the first step.  

What does this have to do with goal setting? If you take anything from reading this, I hope it’s some of these tips on how to stay cyber-safe.

  1. Start with changing the password on your home router. Is it still the default password? Consider unplugging it and plugging it back in. If you have kids, consider setting up a Guest Network.
  2. Take inventory around your house of all the devices connected to your router and consider changing those passwords, especially on your IOT devices (Ring Doorbell, cameras, HVAC, etc.).
  3. Make sure all of your devices are up to date with the latest operating systems. Check your anti-virus/information security suites and make sure they are still operational. If you aren’t paying for them, they most likely are not working. 
  4. Are you using the same password for your mission critical accounts? If so, stop!  These include email, social media, banking/finance, healthcare, IOT devices, etc. If it connects to the Cloud, it’s probably critical. 
  5. Are you using multi-factor authentication on all of your remote access accounts? According to Google, less than 5% of their users have it enabled. If you are using it, consider moving away from SMS and consider an authenticator app or hardware token. Go here to learn more.
  6. Realize phishing emails and text messages are the main attack vector for cybercriminals. You are going to get an email from someone you know and trust, and they are going to ask you to click on a link. Think before you click and  never call the telephone number in the email. ALWAYS GO TO THE SOURCE!
  7. However, many of the phishing emails and text messages will not contain any links. They may ask to change bank account and/or routing numbers, or ask for sensitive information. An example of this would be an accountant getting an email from a client asking for three years worth of tax returns for a real estate transaction. Think Before You Act!
  8. Do not use ‘Free Wifi’ at hotels, coffee shops or retail establishments. Use your own hotspot on your phone for your devices.
  9. Set up an additional email account at Gmail or Outlook, and use that for banking/finance, insurance, and health accounts. Do not use that email for anything else except receiving communication. It will cut down on phishing attempts.
  10. Report any suspicious emails or attempted cybercrime activity to the FBI at www.ic3.gov.    This information as it may seem meaning less helps the FBI connect the dots and track down the cybercriminals. It’s also the last thing on your mind if you become a victim, but it may help prevent such crimes in the future.
  11. Make sure you know what your kids are doing on the internet. Child predators are online day and night, wanting to talk to your kids. Check out NetSmartz for your one-stop resource for keeping your kids safe.
  12. If you suspect suspicious activity, get ahead of the game and freeze your credit at FrozenPii.

While these steps help mitigate risk; you can still become a victim. Do yourself a favor this New Year, and put your cybersecurity high on your priority list. It might be the best resolution you have ever made. Happy New Year!

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