CHARLESTON – A security consultant with Advantage Technology has been putting on education workshops for small businesses across West Virginia to help them understand security threats.
Advantage Technology Information Security Consultant Chris May developed the workshops with the West Virginia Small Business Development Center. There are a total of three workshops across the state, including Shepherdstown, Charleston and Fairmont.
May said he and WVSBDC's Director Erika Bailey had a conversation a few months ago in regard to cybersecurity, and Bailey saw the need to educate small business owners on security threats.
"She asked me if I would work in conjunction with them to do three workshops throughout the state to help educate small business owners on the cybersecurity threats and how prevalent they are and how they can better protect themselves," May said in an interview with The West Virginia Record.
The workshops each last about three hours.
"They are all the same as far as the workshop itself," May said.
For the Charleston workshop, May was able to bring in Danielle Cox, who is the risk management officer for the West Virginia Office of Technology.
"Danielle spoke a little bit on why it’s so important for small businesses to learn about this and how prevalent the threats and attacks are now and how they feel the businesses should literally open their eyes to this and take notice in order to protect themselves better," May said.
After Cox spoke, May then delved into the workshop, where he educated small business owners on a couple of different things.
"First, who is at risk, why are you at risk, who are the people that present this risk to you and then we do a deep dive into how you can protect yourself and help mitigate those risks," May said.
May said one of the biggest things he's seeing right now is a shift in who is at risk for cybersecurity threats.
"The threat originally was more focused on enterprise - large health care or financial institutions. Criminals were after the large data stores that they had and those large volumes of records that could then be sold for profit," May said. "We’ve seen a large shift in the direction of these attacks now with the advent of ransomware, which seems to be everywhere now."
May said the size of the business isn’t as relevant now.
"Now, these criminal hackers are not working to steal the information - they’re only looking to lock you out of your information," May said. "So, with ransomware, they basically encrypt all of your drives, all of your computers and all of your systems and then you have to pay in order to get access to your data - in order to get it back."
May said a lot of times, small businesses don’t have the protections that large corporations have in place.
"It’s much easier to do that - it’s much easier to lock you out of your systems," May said. "You can imagine, as a small business, if you come in one morning and every single system that you have - every computer, every server - is locked, you will pay whatever necessary to get that data back because until you do you can’t operate."
May said it’s no longer the importance of the actual data they have as long as they can lock the business owner out of it.
"Cybercrime is a financial crime," May said. "Ninety-three percent of all money is now digital. What happens is, why would someone rob a bank when you could take more money than what is available in that bank in 0.3 seconds over the internet?"
May said cybercriminals are motivated by profit and predictable returns on investments.
"Cybercriminals know if they push malware out to five million email addresses, someone eventually will open that email and open a link in that email that allows them into that network," May said. "They know they are going to get paid. And they just do it over and over."
May said the sad part is the advent of ransomware and cybercrime that we’re dealing with now is the new normal.
"This will not change - this will not stop, because they know they can make a profit off of it," May said. "We have to educate business owners and individuals on the proper tools and techniques to protect themselves because the criminals are not going to stop."