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Internet providers educating users on cybercrime risks

GRANITE FALLS — It may not show up on daily police blotters, but Marshall Police Chief Jim Marshall says cybercrime is a growing issue for law enforcement.

“It’s something law enforcement agencies hear about every day, someone having an issue with credit card fraud or another kind of scam,” Marshall said.

The statistics support Marshall’s concern. It’s estimated that the global cost of cybercrime will reach $6 trillion by 2021.

Marshall stresses education of the public in dealing with cybercrimes. Awareness efforts from telecommunications providers can help to make the public more alert to signs of fraud.

“Anything providers can do to help with that is appreciated. They have IT expertise that helps with efforts to educate the public,” he said.

MVTV Wireless is one of those Internet providers offers informational presentations to audiences in its service area about the potential for any Internet user to become a victim of cybercrime.

The Granite Falls based regional telecommunications cooperative offers PowerPoint material on cybercrime prevention intended for general audiences whether or not they receive MVTV services.

“The purpose is to promote awareness,” said MVTV marketing specialist Pam Rosenau, who meets with an average of about five audiences a year upon request. “As a provider, we want to encourage the public to do what’s necessary to ensure that information they share online is secure.”

Her most recent program was delivered last week at Prairie’s Edge Casino to members of the Granite Falls Chamber of Commerce for their monthly networking breakfast.

She said businesses, as well as individual consumers, are at risk of cybercrime because of the many ways someone can gain access to identity-based information.

A detail such as a social security number, which is often used for identification on bank statements and other documents, can act as a pathway toward fraudulent transactions. It could also enable the creation of new accounts that wrongfully use someone’s name.

“Those kinds of situations happen frequently,” Rosenau said. “Many times people don’t get concerned until they experience it. There’s a need for awareness and prevention.”

She described two situations in the MVTV Wireless service area in which a relative was falsely led to believe that a younger loved one needed money through a wire transfer.

In one case the person’s spouse checked on the situation and learned that the relative was not having any money-related issue. With her second example, the same discovery was made only after several money transfers had taken place.

A typical cybercrime planning process includes a monitoring period that continues for several months or more. Fraud often starts with a small amount of money, then progresses to larger sums if first attempts clear all transaction phases.

Statistics cited show that 68 percent of businesses do not have cyber security insurance. A total of 45 percent don’t have any computer-related disaster recovery plan.

“Many times the criminal activity is targeted to small businesses and population groups that are less likely to be well-versed in technology,” Rosenau said. “That’s where they’re likely to find more potential for fraud.”

Rosenau’s presentation PowerPoint begins by advising everyone to think twice whenever they respond to a computer prompt with a download or a click. It advises passwords that include a mixture of lower case and capital letters, and that also mix in at least one or two non-alphabetical characters.

Other advice includes being suspicious of any message that claims there’s an urgency. It’s also recommended to observe caution before sharing information such as a credit card number, phone number or a different email address; even when the web site appears at first glance to be legitimate.

As to the potential for computer security to expand in a way that catches up with cybercrime, experts advise not to expect it to happen at any time in the near future.

“The only way to always trace it back would be to have a monitoring system that can cover every access point,” Rosenau said.

“That’s becoming more of an impossible task as computer technology is used in many different devices.”

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