Local Businesses Urged to Understand Data Breach Threats

By George Slaughter

Frank Mulcahy (George Slaughter photo)

Business owners must learn how data breaches can harm their businesses, a business speaker said Wednesday.

Frank Mulcahy, Identity Theft Advisory Group president, spoke at the Fulshear-Katy Area Chamber of Commerce meeting. The meeting took place at Parkway Fellowship Church, 27043 FM 1093, in Richmond.

Mulcahy said a common cyber security misperception was that it was all about one’s credit score. But he said nothing could be further from the truth. Mulcahy said the U.S. is the top target for data theft, with 64% of reported data theft occurring here.

Mulcahy said major corporations, including Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, and Target, have had data breaches. In each case, tens of millions of user records were breached.

Yet smaller businesses are no less vulnerable to cyberattack, Mulcahy said. He cited a IBM Cost of Data Breach Report from last year that said that the average business cost of a cyberattack is $3.86 million. It takes over 200 days to detect a breach, he said.

Small businesses, and those working from home, are also vulnerable to cyberattack. Mulcahy said that while users are used to being online, they aren’t always vigilant in protecting their passwords. People often unwittingly open malware program-carrying e-mails or hyperlinks which can cause harm.

“One wrong click, one wrong e-mail attack, one wrong download, and you could shut everything down,” Mulcahy said.

Since 2005, more than 14 million American records have been lost or stolen. Such thefts can be lucrative for cybercriminals,

“The theft of data is more popular than the theft of drugs, because with drugs you’re selling one time,” Mulcahy said. “With the theft of data, you can sell that over and over.”

Ransomware is another cyberattack threat. Ransomware is a malicious software that blocks access to a system until the victim pays a ransom. Mulcahy cited the case with Colonial Pipeline, which came under such an attack.

Colonial Pipeline transports gas from Texas to several eastern states via pipeline. The ransomware attacked caused a shutdown of the pipeline system. As a result, those states endured both a gas shortage and higher gas prices.

The company restored its system after paying a $4.4 million ransom. Federal authorities said this week they have recovered a large part of that ransom money.

Businesses are not the only organizations facing cyberattacks. Mulcahy said cybercriminals last year executed ransomware attacks on 22 Texas cities.