Friday, June 20, 2014

Internet Security More Important Than Ever in HVAC Industry  

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Tips to protect your company and customers from cyber crime  

During the 2013 holiday season, Target stores experienced a massive data breach that exposed the personal data of about 110 million customers. Anyone who swiped their card at a Target location over a three-week period was suddenly at risk for identity and financial theft in one of the largest breaches of consumer data in American history. 

Six months later, Target is still facing thousands of legal battles, a drop in revenue and a potentially harmful reputation, while customers are dealing with the repercussions of stolen personal information. 

So how was one of America’s most trusted retailers hacked without realizing it for nearly a month? The answer may surprise you. It was through an HVAC partner. 

With tight security surrounding Target’s credit card server, hackers found an easier way in—through a refrigeration, heating and air conditioning subcontractor that had worked at a number of Target locations and was granted access to the store’s servers.

Protecting personal and professional information will continue to become more difficult as hackers take increasingly creative routes to get the information they want. Maintain security for you, your customers and your company by taking the following steps:  

1. Change your password every few months.
According to a 2013 Data Breach report from Verizon, over 75 percent of data breaches stemmed from weak or stolen credentials. The easiest way to make sure your information is secure is to consistently change your passwords. If you need to share your password with a third party, be sure and change it after the outside work is complete.  

2. Purchase antivirus protection.
Antivirus is crucial to your computer’s security. It could save you from having to pay greater costs down the road, like having to fix a crashed server or remedy a stolen identity. Hackers look for easy ways in. According to a recent article in the New York Times, “security experts say vendors are tempting targets for hackers because they tend to run older systems, like Microsoft’s Windows XP software. Also, security experts say these seemingly innocuous devices—videoconference equipment, thermostats, vending machines and printers—often are delivered with the security settings switched off by default. Once hackers have found a way in, the devices offer them a place to hide in plain sight.”  

3. Don’t click on suspicious links
Curiosity can get the best of us sometimes, especially when we are presented with offers that seem too good to be true. The problem is, Internet offers usually are. Avoid scams by staying away from Internet ads, pop-ups and emails from unknown senders.  

4. Dispose of client information once a job is complete
As we learned from the Target scandal, don’t leave customer information where hackers can easily find it. For example, don’t keep a file on your computer desktop that’s labeled, “Important Customer Info” and filled with bank account information, Internet passwords, etc. Keep it hidden within your computer and protect with a password, if possible. Then, dispose of the information once the job is complete. 

Even if you’re a small business, that doesn’t mean you can escape hackers’ attention. In fact, cyber security firm Symantec found in its 2013 report that small companies with less than 250 employees represented 31 percent of all cyber crime attacks in 2012. That’s up 13 percent from 2011.

Make sure you take the necessary precautions—cyber crime can cost you thousands of dollars in fees and expenses.

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