Most people’s perception of a hacker is a kid in his parents’ basement surrounded by Twinkies, said Larry Brusso, a security expert for D.E. Web Works.

Reality is much scarier.

“We have large, syndicated crime networks,” Brusso said. “The bad guys out-technology us and they recruit from MIT and Brown (University).”

To learn about how they can protect their online assets from being compromised, several area business owners and administrators gathered at a UHV lecture hall Wednesday morning to hear from Brusso and David Arnold, owner of D.E. Web Works.

Arnold’s Victoria-based company provides design, information technology and web hosting services for clients.

The event where the presented, PYS: Protect Your $#!”|”, was the first such event by the Victoria Chamber of Commerce focused on cyber security.

Arnold said it was designed to help people with small businesses who don’t have the resources to invest in expensive security technologies or an in-house IT professional.

Roslyn Faust, who works for BeneficialHR, said she attended the event because her small business can’t afford expensive internet security technologies.

“There’s a lot of products out there,” Faust said.

Arnold said internet security for small businesses doesn’t have to break the bank. He compared it to taking preventative measures in car maintenance.

“I help my mechanic by doing the things that should be done,” Arnold said.

Even if a business doesn’t deal with private information like medical records and billing information, Arnold said lack of security can interfere with productivity.

For example, Arnold said, a ransomware attack that hit Jackson County in May shut down the county’s online presence for weeks. In addition to loss of records, cyber attacks can lead to potentially costly downtime if internet or email access is compromised.

Because the technologies used by hackers are advanced and rapidly changing, Brusso said there is no surefire way to prevent hackers from gaining access to online assets.

“There’s no silver bullet,” Brusso said. “The threat that’s out there is a lot more verbose and way more complex than it’s ever been in history.”

After her county was subject to a ransomware attach, Jackson County Judge Jill Sklar said she invested in online security measures to prevent future attacks. She said such measures helped prevent the county from being wrapped up in the connected ransomware attacks that hit more than 20 local governments on Friday.

For business owners seeking internet security, Arnold prescribed using enterprise-level antivirus solutions, being cautious of phishing scams and frequently changing secure passwords.

Morgan is the business reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at (361) 580-6328, mohanlon@vicad.com or @mcohanlon.

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