Every year, there are at least three significant stories in the news about breaches in cyber security. The most recent thefts of credit card data or hacks into the Dallas TX emergency alert system speak of how pervasive these threats have become. Every day, in some basement or computer lab somewhere, there are both amateur and professional hackers busy at work devising new methods to crack into or circumvent antivirus and malware protection software.

Cyber criminals have become adept at breaching computer and internet defenses. At stake is millions of dollars worth of revenue, sensitive corporate data such as trade secrets or confidential files, and financial losses from cyber crime schemes. One of the most pernicious of these is the planting of ransomware on as many computers that can be infected through e-mail. Law enforcement authorities as well as cyber security experts and IT professionals estimate that cyber crime could end up costing businesses, individuals, and even governments, over $2 trillion by 2019.

Small businesses and independent online freelancers are especially vulnerable to these threats. Unlike large corporations and governments, small businesses and freelancers cannot enjoy the advantages afforded by huge dedicated cyber security departments and agencies with large budgets and immense resources at their command to defeat such attacks. However, there are steps the “small fry” can take to protect themselves. One thing cyber criminals have in common with their real-world brethren is their inclination to hit easy victims and bypass those who present even a momentary challenge. Crime is always a hit-and-run business, and a target looking to be difficult soon becomes unattractive, and the criminal moves on to the next potential victim.

Install and regularly upgrade antivirus and malware defenses. Keeping up with the latest versions, patches, and each upgrade can help one keep up in the race between offense and defense in this game. Good cyber security policy should be drafted and adhered to by both employees and management. This includes creating strong passwords and changing them periodically, restricting physical access to computers and access to internal data, retiring old machines, and developing protocols for mobile device usage for the office. These are nothing more than simple, common sense measures that can potentially save a business or an individual a lot of needless anguish and monetary loss.

By alpha