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Welcome to our website!

Homeland security starts at our keyboards

Here’s one of those too-good-to-be-true offers — except it’s true.

Small businesses can get access to free tools to help keep their computer data — and their customers’ information — secure. Those tools are found on the website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or DHS.

Owners of some businesses may think they’re too small for hackers to care about. DHS says quite the opposite may be true. Small businesses have customer information that cyber criminals want: bank account information, employee and customer records, and access to the finances of the business.

Perhaps most troubling is potential access to larger computer networks.

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Smaller businesses can be tempting targets for crooks because they likely have fewer staffers skilled in cyber security. While the payoff for the thieves may be smaller, ransomware may work its nasty wonders on many small businesses — in 2012, DHS estimates half of all cyber attacks were aimed at firms with fewer than 2,500 employees.

To shop for those free tools, visit dhs.gov/publication/stopthinkconnect-small-business-resources.

Yes, it’s a long address. No, don’t Google “safeguard computer data” and shop from the ads that appear. The resources on the DHS site are free.

At the homepage you can begin with a frank look at what DHS calls the “threat environment.” It’s a one-page overview that doesn’t talk down to people who are not versed in computer lingo, while giving security-rich companies a road map to further reducing vulnerabilities.

Each business owner can choose the tool that works for that business. There’s a half-hour introduction to securing data in small businesses at sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center/training/cybersecurity-small-businesses.

The Small Biz Cyber Planner covers insurance, advanced spyware and ways to install protective software at fcc.gov/cyberplanner.

Global problems need global solutions. DHS, the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Anti-Phishing Working Group have joined forces in an awareness campaign they call Stop, Think, Connect at stopthinkconnect.org.

The campaign has focused on educating computer users to think twice or more before clicking on anything. They also urge users to trust their instincts; if it seems too good to be true, it is.

Closer to home, the Maine Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA, has been observing National Cyber Security Awareness Month. MEMA has offered a series of tips which you can read at maine.gov/mema/prepare/prep_tips.shtml?id=23914. You can also sign up for daily email tips on preparing for all kinds of emergencies.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.


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