Nearly every week, some company or organization in the U.S. reports a data breach or other cybersecurity issue affecting their computer network and the personal data of their customers, clients and contacts.

And every day, hundreds of Americans find that their sensitive data, including bank account and credit card information, has been hacked.

To underscore the importance of robust cybersecurity measures for anyone using the internet or plugged into a more local network, the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) designate October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

#BeCyberSmart

Now in its 17th year, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month focuses on a theme that may help raise awareness among individuals and organizations alike about the importance of protecting themselves from a potential cyberattack. This year, the CISA and NSCA have chosen the theme “Do your part and #BeCyberSmart” all year long.

According to the Pew Research Center, many Americans do not trust modern institutions to protect their personal data, even as they frequently neglect taking optimal cybersecurity measures in their own personal lives. The more everyone does to protect themselves from a cyberattack, the more everyone will be safe. This is especially true for businesses and organizations that we must often entrust to handle our highly sensitive, personal information.

A snapshot of cybercrime

According to Pew Research,

  • 41% of Americans have encountered fraudulent charges on their credit cards.
  • 35% have received notices that some type of sensitive information (like an account number) had been compromised.
  • 16% say that someone has taken over their email accounts, and 13% say someone has taken over one of their social media accounts.
  • 15% have received notices that their Social Security number had been compromised.
  • 14% say that someone has attempted to take out loans or lines of credit in their name.
  • 6% say that someone has impersonated them in order to file fraudulent tax returns.

Cyberattacks on the rise

Cybersecurity attacks are growing in frequency and severity as hackers, who are often based in Russia, China, and other nations, become more sophisticated in navigating security protocols and accessing our private information.

A report from the Identity Theft Resource Center found that there were 1,473 data breaches in 2019, a 17% increase over the 1,257 data breaches reported in 2018. There has been some progress despite the rise, however. The total number of sensitive records exposed was down 65% last year.

What you can do

The FBI, which serves as the nation’s top cyber investigative agency, encourages anyone who experiences an online crime to report the incident to federal investigators.

The FBI also provides a list of safety tips you can take to make sure you and/or your business don’t fall victim to a cyberattack:

  •  Keep software systems up to date and use a good anti-virus program.
  • Examine the email address and URLs in all correspondence. Scammers often mimic a legitimate site or email address by using a slight variation in spelling.
  • If an unsolicited text message, email or phone call asks you to update, check or verify your account information, do not follow the link provided in the message itself or call the phone numbers provided in the message. Go to the company’s website to log into your account or call the phone number listed on the official website to see if something does in fact need your attention.
  • Do not open any attachments unless you are expecting the file, document or invoice and have verified the sender’s email address.
  • Scrutinize all electronic requests for a payment or transfer of funds.
  • Be extra suspicious of any message that urges immediate action.
  • Confirm requests for wire transfers or payment in person or over the phone as part of a two-factor authentication process. Do not verify these requests using the phone number listed in the request for payment.

Cybersecurity and Data Breach Litigation

Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Consumer Fraud Section handle claims of economic losses resulting from data breaches and other cybersecurity issues. For more information about these issues, contact Leslie Pescia.

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