Cyber-thieves attack internet and smartphone users constantly, putting financial and other private information at continual risk.

But people can protect themselves with the right precautions, according to a local expert.

“An individual is attacked every 20 seconds and businesses are attacked every two minutes,” said Bill Esslinger, CEO of FOGO Data Centers in Carrollton. “One in every 131 emails contains malware and six out of 10 of those malware are ransomware.”

“Cyber-security is not a cloud issue,” said Esslinger. “If you are connected to the internet then you are vulnerable. If you have a smartphone on you, even if you are not on WiFi, if you have a 3G or 4G connection you are vulnerable to a cyber attack.”

Esslinger spoke Friday at the McCalman Executive Roundtable at the Sunset Hills Country Club to discuss issues of cyber-security and identifying significant threats in the cyberworld. The Roundtable was established by the McCalman family to enhance the professional and personal growth of business students.

The primary threat to internet users in the past was data infiltrations that could enable cyber-thieves to take one’s personal data and leave with it. Though that remains a constant problem,  Esslinger said the biggest threat now is ransomware, in which a person’s computer is taken over and held hostage in return for money, usually through had-to-track payments such as Bitcoin.

Esslinger said ransomware now comes in email that appears to be from people you may know, such as a coworker or relative.

“About a year ago my comptroller came in my office to ask who was the vendor that she needed to send the $300,000 to,” said Esslinger. “She said that I sent an email to her, but I had not sent an email to her all day. Sure enough, it was someone who had set up a business with the secretary of state of Georgia so they can get a bank account and set up a URL, all to do this and try to take money.”

Esslinger said that even though cyber-thieves are getting smarter, they are still lazy and will go through the path of least resistance.

“Why should I break into your house when I can just trick your crazy uncle to open the window,” said Esslinger. “Really, at this point it is about training. It is time to train your employees about not clicking on a link on an email without making sure.

“It is important to talk about because there are real threats out there and not many people know just how big those threats are. It can be frightening but if you are educated and take the right steps and proper precautions, then you can keep yourself safe and that is what we do.”

Esslinger said that he spoke Friday because everyone is connected and everyone needs to stay safe.

“Even if we are not doing business together we are still connected so I think it is important to educate anyone in this community, particularly students,” Esslinger said.


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