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National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Data breaches resulting in the compromise Of personally identifiable information of thousands of Americans. Intrusions into financial, corporate, and government networks. Complex financial schemes committed by sophisticated cyber criminals against business and the public in general.

There are only a few examples of crimes committed online over the past year or so, and part of the reason why Director James Comey, testifying before Congress last week, said that “the pervasiveness of the cyber threat is such that the FBI and other intelligence, military, homeland security, and law enforcement agencies across the government view cyber security and cyber attacks as a top priority.” The FBI, according to Comey, targets the most dangerous malicious cyber activity – high level intrusions by state-sponsored hackers and global cyber syndicates, and the most prolific botnets. And in doing so, we work collaboratively with our domestic and international partners and the private sector.

But it’s important for individuals, businesses, and others to be involved in their own cyber security. And National Cyber Security Awareness Month – a Department of Homeland Security-administered campaign held every October – is perhaps the most appropriate time to reflect on the universe of cyber threats and on doing your part to secure your own devices, networks, and date.

Prolific Cyber Threats:

Ransomware: It is a type of malware that infects computers and restricts users’ access to their files or threatens permanent destruction of their information unless a ransom is paid. In addition to individual users, ransomware has infected entities such as schools, hospitals, and police departments. The actors behind these sophisticated schemes advise the users that if they pay the ransom, they will receive the private key needed to decrypt the files. Most recently, these cyber criminals – being business savvy – give victims the option of decrypting one file for free to prove that they have the ability to restore the locked files.

Business e-mail compromise, or BEC, scams continue to impact many businesses across the U.S. and abroad. BEC is a type of payment fraud that involves the compromise of legitimate business e-mail account – often belonging to either the chief executive officer or the chief financial officer – for the purpose of conducting unauthorized wire transfers. After compromising the company’s email account – usually through social engineering or malware – the criminals are then able to send wire transfer instructions using the victim’s e-mail or a spoofed e-mail account. BEC scams have been reported in all 50 states and 100 countries and have caused estimated losses of more than $3 billion worldwide.

Intellectual property theft involves robbing individuals or companies of their ideas, inventions, and creative expressions – often stolen when computers and networks are accessed by unscrupulous competitors, hackers, and other criminals. Intellectual property can include everything from trade secrets and proprietary products and parts to movies, music, and software. The information of law protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) – which protects the U.S. economy, national security, and the health and safety of the American public – is an FBI criminal priority. The Bureau’s IPR focus is on the theft of trade secrets and infringements on products that can impact consumers’ health and safety, including counterfeit aircraft, automotive, and electronic parts.

“The FBI is doing everything we possibly can, at every level, to make it harder for cyber criminals to operate,” says Associate Executive Assistant Director David Johnson, “and I believe many of them are now starting to think twice before they put fingers to keyboard. But we also ask that the public do its part by taking precautions and implementing safeguards to protect their own data.”

Check on the FBI’s website during the month of October for information on protecting your data and devices and on FBI efforts to combat the egregious cyber criminals.