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Wyoming Business Tips for Nov. 1-7

October 23, 2015

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Alec Muthig, University of Wyoming Information Technology training program manager

“Cybersecurity is a popular topic these days. What do I need to know to help keep my computers safe?” Greg, Casper

Our business and personal lives are becoming more connected to the digital world. While this phenomenon has many benefits, there also is a wide range of associated potential risks.

Attacks against computer systems and attempts to obtain private information are becoming more common and sophisticated, and the most efficient attacks exploit the weakest link in the information security chain -- the human component.

The easiest methods of attack take advantage of our limited security knowledge, essentially tricking us into opening our own doors. We often rely on software or information technology (IT) departments to provide security, but the best security tools available cannot prevent us from being deceived. All computer users must be responsible for guarding access to personal and organizational information.

Imagine a scenario where employees receive an email that appears to come from IT staff, asking for password information for an upcoming security audit. A few unsuspecting employees forward their passwords, not realizing that this is a phishing scam. The attackers have duped a few people into opening doors that allow access to private customer information. Another possibility is a scenario where someone clicks on a “security alert” pop-up, only to initiate malicious software that will gather credit card numbers.

Like all security processes, information security is composed of multiple obstacles, such as strong password policies, firewalls, regularly updated software patches and anti-virus applications. The most important obstacle is human vigilance.

Cybercriminals are full of tricks -- trying to deceive us into giving out our passwords or installing malicious software -- getting us to do the work for them. How can we keep from being tricked? The following are a few tips:

-- A password is the key to your information. Never share it with anyone. In addition, make sure to use strong, complex passwords and change them often.

-- Do not reply to email messages that ask for password, credit card or other private information. Phishing emails can be convincing, but remember that legitimate organizations will never ask for this information.

-- When you receive an email, do not open unexpected files that are attached to the message, even if it is from a friend or colleague. It may contain malware.

-- Close strange pop-up windows immediately, including fake “security alerts.” (To carefully close pop-ups, shut down the entire Web browser.)

-- Continue to monitor for new threats and use online resources, such as

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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