Cyber criminals are evolving at an alarming rate. Cyber-security product developers are on an infinite loop with felons, each trying to out fox the other with regards to data breaches. Security is absolutely necessary for brick and mortar establishments due to a myriad of reasons, but in 2019, the name of the game is cyber-security. Not only are data breaches an efficient way to steal trade secrets and financial information from businesses, but they can also be done remotely. A proficient hacker or scammer can access a company’s vital company information from halfway across the world, and from that same location, can devastate the company. Within minutes, they can access financial information, trade secrets, distribution and delivery schedules, and private customer information. To prevent this from happening to your business, here are 5 cyber security measures every business should have:
This is Internet 101. Since the birth of the World Wide Web, we’ve been educating adults and children alike on the importance of having a strong password to access online accounts. Whether it’s a company’s financial information, or a Grubhub app on an executive’s phone, thieves can crack weak passwords to gain access. As such, it’s important passwords never contain personal information about an individual, especially if that information is visible on social media. Parents often include the name of their kids in their passwords, using their dates of birth for any numerical value requirement. Teens and young adults use the name of their favorite animal, sport, or music artist. Another common tactic is using common words that are easy to remember, and then spelling them backwards for a false sense of security. Experts at the National Cyber Security Alliance also do not recommend using sequences of characters that are near each other on the keyboard, such as “QWERTY,” the first six characters of the keyboard. The current recommended length for strong passwords is between 8-12 characters. If you’re unsure whether or not you password is secure, use an online password checker to verify the passwords level of cyber security.
Firewalls have been around almost as long as passwords. Firewalls are shields that protect your business from harmful or insidious traffic. When you connect to the internet, the system is constantly communicating with the wireless network, both sending and receiving units of information known as packets. Firewalls monitor these packets and perform a risk assessment, blocking unsafe packets. These firewalls protect your company’s data from unauthorized remote access by criminals.
Roland Cloutier, the Chief Security Officer for ADP, calls antivirus software “the last line of defense” when protecting your company’s data from hackers and other cyber-criminals. Not only can remote criminals access and view a company’s vital information, but they can also install vicious malware that will copy the target’s hard drive, and subsequently render the machine inoperable. Installing anti-virus and anti-malware programs aren’t enough, though. These programs need to be updated regularly as part of the infinite loop mentioned earlier. Every time a criminal finds a way to bypass an anti-malware product, the product requires changes to combat those breaches.
Laptops and Mobile Phones
It’s important to secure laptop computers and mobile smartphones associated with your business. For this, experts recommend encryption software so any remote felon attempting to access or copy the hard drive cannot do so without the proper password. They also stress the importance of never leaving these devices in ones vehicle, where they are easily accessible to thieves. “Lock-out” options are also standard for these devices in 2019. This setting allows you to establish a time period during which the phone lies idle. After that period expires, the phone locks itself, preventing anyone from accessing it without the password. Smartphones and laptops with remote-wipe features must be enabled. This way, if your device falls into the wrong hands, you can remotely wipe the device and prevent the leak of sensitive company information.
Last, but never least, it’s important your workforce is educated on the security measures in place and regularly enforces them on a day-to-day basis. Companies often neglect employee education under the false impression their IT team will be able to resolve all issues whenever they arise. The fact is, even IT professionals cannot anticipate every cyber threat, and may not be up-to-date on the very latest in cyber-criminal tactics. An ounce of this education is worth a pound of cure—Despite the level of technology literacy in the United States in 2019, an employer or business owner cannot assume an employee’s level of security knowledge. The prevention starts with employees, providing them with an intimate knowledge of company operations and how cyber security measures protect them.
Regardless of your company’s industry or size, all businesses must update and maintain their cyber security. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when criminals can bypass cyber security, and devastate a company in minutes.
When growing a business, executives and owners have to go the extra mile when it comes to protecting trade secrets. In the pursuit of their company’s business, a common practice for corporations of all sizes is implementing non-compete clauses in their employees’ contracts. This ensures, should an employee leave the company for any reason, they cannot utilize trade secrets for the purpose of building a similar business of their own. It’s in a business owner’s best interest to be preemptive in protecting themselves from client poaching, theft of company secrets, and possibly even slander when it comes to current and former employees who violate their non-compete agreements.
Though they go by several names and the laws concerning them vary state to state, non-compete agreements are generally a legally-binding contract between an employer and an employee, whereupon acceptance of a job offer by a company, an individual agrees during their employment and following their termination they will not enter into any competing business for a predetermined period of time. Whether it’s working for a company’s top competitor, or striking out in their own business, non-compete agreements protect trade secrets, sensitive company information, and prevent competing businesses from poaching successful employees with promises of a handsome pay-raise in exchange for the expertise they might have gleaned from their time at their previous position. This kind of information can range from client bases to business operations to future products and services. The duration of the non-compete agreement following an employee’s termination have to be well within reason, as no employer can permanently preclude a former employee from any line of work.
Not every company experiences difficulties by virtue of a former employee violating their non-compete agreement, and some companies do not see the need for non-compete agreements at all, but the consequences of trade secrets being used to steal a company’s business can have devastating effects, ending in the worst possible circumstances with a business closing and an owner in debt. Even if a company is able to quash a non-compete violation in court, the cost to the company in legal fees can be astronomical, especially for smaller businesses. That’s why it’s important for owners and executives to be preemptive and proactive when it comes to potential violators. Luckily, a private investigator can help at all stages of a non-compete violation investigation.
Human resource employees are the salt of the earth, and can have a great influence on how a company develops based on the individuals they select for their workforce. However, human resource employees are not lie detectors, and do not always have access to legitimate, comprehensive background screening tools. Background screenings and checks are among the most common service associated with private investigators. If there is something suspect in a candidate’s past, licensed private investigators have the tools and experience to find it out. Private investigators can pull a candidate’s criminal history, financial history, and interview persons in their lives who can speak to character and work ethic. They can also spot patterns in a person’s work history or lifestyle that could be high-risk factors in a hypothetical non-compete violation—things like transience, long periods between positions, or financial destitution.
Some malingering employees can’t wait to be terminated before violating their non-compete agreements. It’s not uncommon for these individuals to exploit trade secrets for their businesses own gain while on company time and dime. While on a business trip, an individual might use company per diem to buy drinks for a person who could be a potential investor in their new business. Employees might use company supplies to supplement their project, such as printers, fax machines, computers, and other equipment. Private investigators can conduct diligent investigations within a company’s workforce to root out the source of the theft. Private investigators can interview witnesses, including upper management and other staff, review vital documents like bank records, and conduct surveillance of the company’s operations as needed to expose the perpetrator. Their objectivity makes them an ideal candidate to conduct such an investigation because they do not have a stake in the outcome.
There are many circumstances under which a business owner might come to suspect a former employee has violated their non-compete agreement. Word might have traveled through business circles that a similar business is starting up. Employees might start disappearing in clusters. Clients may suddenly decide to sever business ties in favor of a new contender in the competition. Whatever transpires, one thing is certain—documenting and exposing this exploitation is imperative, because the consequences can be costly. Retaining a qualified private investigator who specializes in corporate crises is crucial to resolving non-compete violations quickly, before the exponential costs begin to erode profits. Private investigators can perform surveillance on suspected former employees to document their movements, record with whom they met, and collect evidence such as pictures of a brick and mortar establishment, marketing materials, vital documents, and filings with the Secretary of State. Private investigators can send undercover operatives to infiltrate a workforce to get information the business privy only to employees. They can also enlist the aid of a confidential informant—an individual already within the company to provide information. This requires quality interviewing skills and developing a natural rapport with potential witnesses, both important qualities in a qualified investigator.
When non-compete violations are at their ugliest, not only do violators seek to siphon off their former employer’s business by exploiting trade secrets and knowledge of their operations, but they can also play dirty by exposing this information publicly. Another method involves deliberately spreading lies about the competition in order to drive business towards the former employee’s company. That’s known as slander and it’s legally actionable. Documenting the perpetuation of these lies and proving they are in fact false are crucial in these cases. Diligent fact-finding is the cornerstone of any private investigator’s expertise. Private investigators can conduct cyber investigations to track down the users behind profiles that post false negative reviews, follow rumors back to their roots, and forensically track how information left the competition and made its way into the former employee’s business nucleus. They can implement many of the strategies aforementioned: surveillance, interviewing witnesses, documenting evidence. Slander cases tend to have a divisive they-said, they-said narrative, which is where a private investigator’s objectivity becomes invaluable once more. Private investigators have no stake in the solution of an investigation. Their independence coupled with their expertise and resume make them spectacular witnesses in any subsequent litigation.
When a company has a non-compete agreement in place, it’s important that executives and owners are proactive when performing a risk assessment on a potential employee. It’s important that a healthy company culture fosters good comradery, honesty, and a policy of “if you see something, say something.” Building a case against a former employee who violated their agreement can be time consuming at the expense of company resources. Dealing with the fallout from litigation can bring a reliable business to its knees. Private investigators can assist in all phases of any non-compete agreement violation, and retaining their services will go a long way towards a body of objective evidence and testimony that can resolve a company’s crisis.
If you have suspicions that a current or former employee has violated their non-compete agreement, contact Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation on how we can help you! Call 317-955-1100 or find us online at www.lauthinveststg.wpengine.com.
Carie McMichael is the Media and Communication Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on investigations, missing person, and other topics in the criminal justice system.
Hacking and security breaches are an ever-growing crime. If you are a consumer, never presume your information is safe even while grocery shopping. If you are a corporate business, there are many things you can do to improve your security. Contact us – We can help.
For many years, stories about personal identity theft have permeated the daily news. We are warned our personal computers and smart phones can easily become the target of phishing and encouraged to maintain the most up-to-date security software on our devices.
According to a 2011 report released by the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), an estimated 8.6 million households had at least one person age 12 or older, who became a victim of identity theft during 2010. The BJS reports approximately $13.3 billion in direct financial losses. Understandably, this number increases annually. Experts estimate the current number of U.S. victims to be 15 million individuals annually, and upwards to $50 billion in financial losses.
On December 4, 2012, the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC), issued the Child Identity Fraud Survey Report reporting theft of children’s social security numbers are the most commonly used piece of information of identity thieves targeting children. The report also identifies some victimization occurring within the children’s own home by their own family members. ITAC have been reporting increasing incidents of minor identity theft where identity thieves combine a child’s social security number with a fictitious date of birth, creating a new “synthetic” identification that authorities claim is very difficult to detect.
While some criminals steal wallets, mail, and rummage through garbage bins, the 21st Century criminal has advanced using technology to infiltrate our homes, corporations, and government offices for personal information. We are now hearing more and more instances of government and corporate databases that have been lost, stolen, breached, and even sold.
From AOL, Taco Bell, Aetna, Google, Twitter, Walgreens, FEMA, and even New York City Police Department, personal information continues to wind up in the hands of criminals. Stories abound about government or corporate entity’s database systems hacked, customer files found in trash bins, employee theft, and even stolen or lost laptops containing personal information of customers and employees. Considering the damage that can quickly follows any incident of identity theft, experts recommend being proactive to protect personal identification.
According to Thomas Lauth, owner of Lauth Investigations International and a respected private investigator with twenty-year’s experience, “One can never be too careful when protecting their personal information”. Lauth warns personal information is used to not only create new identities, but corporations are targeted by thieves to steal trade secrets, sell client data to competitors, to personal stalking, and even murder. He states, “In this day and age, we must not take our privacy for granted and as citizens we need corporate and government agencies to take precautions to handle our personal information responsibly by implementing additional security precautions.”
Some tips to help keep your information safe
– Keep all personal documents, social security cards, and birth certificates locked in a safe place.
– Shred anything with your name and address on it instead of tossing the items into the trash. A crosscut shredder is recommended.
– Never provide a social security number online or over the phone.
– Password-protect or encrypt all personal information on your computer. Maintain up-to-date protection on your computer.
– Do not click on any link sent in an email unless you know the sender. Merely clicking on a link can install phishing and spyware on the computer. Instead, call or personally visit the financial institution or provider to provide information if required.
– Make sure there has not been a Change of Address request placed with USPS. Thieves will commonly attempt to divert mail so they can obtain billing statements and credit card offers.
– When asked to provide personal information by a medical provider, educational institution, utility company, or governmental agency, ask how they will protect your personal information.
– Corporations, educational, medical, and governmental entities are encouraged to contact Lauth Investigations International to find out how they can better protect their client’s information.
About the Author: Kym L. Pasqualini is founder of the Nation’s missing Children Organization in 1994 and the National Center for Missing Adults in 2000. Kym is considered an expert in the field of missing persons and has spent 20 years working with government officials, advocates, and national media. She is also a contributor to Lauth Investigations International serving as the Social Media & Awareness Expert. Follow @Lauthinv
Whether your company is entering a merger, considering an investment, or assessing a competitor’s advantage, due diligence is a necessary factor to ensure a successful outcome. Business leaders know the importance of growth but every opportunity presented holds the potential for success or failure.
Business intelligence consists of collecting and organizing large amounts of data that enable businesses to identify opportunities and develop strategies that promote long-term success. Hans Peter Luhn, a researcher for IBM, said in a 1958 IBM Journal article, “Business intelligence is the ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action toward a desired goal.”
Making better decisions based on business intelligence
Successful business leaders know the importance of information gathering and review before making any business decision. They draw information and knowledge from various professional disciplines including business consulting, law firms, journalists, and of course investigators.
For instance, when considering a merger with another company it is crucial to know as much about the company’s history, business management, ethics, financial solvency, possible undisclosed liabilities, leadership of the company, and their affiliations. All business transactions have potential risks and it important to assess these risks prior to entering any business transaction. The public information gathered can be quite revealing and prevent a decision that could devastate years of hard work, reputation, and even avoid litigation in the aftermath.
Another circumstance that could arise is that your company may want to know the demographics of your competitor’s clients. The information gathered would contain the number of products offered by the company, how many were products were purchased, how many were sold to men or women, the age brackets of those who purchased the products, the average income level, zip code, and level of education. Utilizing a combination of commercial due diligence and intensive analytical due diligence can forecast sales growth; identify a competitor’s operational metrics, procurement, customer management, and even fraud.
Benefits of internal business intelligence
While business intelligence can identify external opportunities and risks, internal business intelligence can be equally important. For instance, in the Human Resources Department of a company, the data collected on employee’s absences can be a predictive trend and therefore a strategy developed to combat income loss and retain employees. The same company may want to gauge how their latest marketing campaign is increasing sales in order to produce a trend analysis report and present the information in east to understand graphs and charts in PowerPoint at the next Board Meeting. The advantage of data analysis is endless when assessing performance measures of a business.
The risks of economic espionage
Corporations of all sizes face risks both internally and externally. Protecting trade and investment secrets has become increasingly difficult for large corporations entering the age of cyberspace. International corporations face increased loss and risk that ultimately affects the American economy.
In June 2000, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported Larry Ellison, Chief Executive of Oracle admitted to hiring a private detective agency to investigate groups that supported Microsoft. Oracle was trying to uncover ties to research groups that had been releasing studies supportive of Microsoft during an antitrust trial.
Claiming it was his “civic duty” to investigate Microsoft’s affiliations, it was uncovered, the investigative group hired by Oracle attempted to buy trash from two housekeepers at the Association for Competitive Technology.
In a June 28, 2012, statement before the House Committee on Homeland Security and Subcommittee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counter Intelligence Division, estimated more than $13 billion losses to the American economy due to economic espionage.
Whether an insider employee is selling trade secrets, a competitor is attempting to infiltrate, or a company is the target of cyber-attacks, more and more companies, governments, and nonprofits face significant risks. Business intelligence when conducted legally and ethically can protect more than the bottom-line.
Private Investigators specialize in business intelligence
Professional investigative teams have private investigators that can verify information, collect information about financial transactions, assets, investments, liabilities, and identify existing contracts, business practices, and even political associations. The information is then provided to the client providing a solid base for decision-making.
Business intelligence involves research, measurement, querying, analytics, data mining, performance management, reporting, identifying benchmarks, information sharing, and regulatory compliance. To implement effective business intelligence strategy, it is important to have skilled investigators to help your company obtain the needed information while conducting a legal, ethical, and discreet investigation.
According to Thomas Lauth, owner and lead private investigator at Lauth Investigations International, business intelligence has become a necessary component of business management worldwide. “From a negative media campaign to competing for a contract, knowing who your opposition is and their political and media affiliations, marketing and internet campaigns, and even motives will give you the competitive edge” says Lauth. “The old saying, it is better to be safe than sorry, rings true.”
Kym L. Pasqualini
Social Media & Awareness Expert
Lauth Investigations International
201 N. Illinois Street, 16th Floor-South Tower
Indianapolis, IN 46254www.lauthinveststg.wpengine.com