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NBT Bank's Senior Vice President James Terry talks at the Beeches Wednesday morning about the dangers of cybercrimes. Although cybercrime is becoming more prevalent in a society increasingly more dependent upon computers, Terry explained that there are steps that can be taken to prevent falling victim.
Rome - The secret world of cybercrime is becoming more and more mainstream as news of national and worldwide institutions being hacked into continue to surface.

Sony, Citigroup, Apple and Google are just some of the companies that have had their servers infiltrated recently in what is becoming a spate of hackings targeting big time corporations with big time money.

Wednesday morning, NBT Bank, along with cosponsor the Rome Chamber of Commerce, hosted a cybercrime seminar at the Beeches.

The presentation was given in order to give people a better idea of what cybercrime is, how it works and what companies and individuals can do to prevent falling victim.

NBT Bank brought along its in-house experts to present the information. The experts were Joseph Stagliano, Executive Vice-President and Chief Information Officer, and James Terry, Senior Vice President and Director of Operational Risk and Financial Crime Management.

Stagliano began the presentation by explaining how cybercrime has reached epidemic proportions as technology continues to progress.

"They used to drill through your vaults to get the money, now they drill through your computer systems," he said.

Stagliano explained how, in the U.S., the economic loss due to cybercrime has tripled since 2006 and the amount of losses doubled from 2008 to 2009 alone. The impact on the economy is estimated to be at least $117 billion annually.

According to NBT Bank, cybercrime is defined as any criminal offense committed using a computer and the Internet to steal a person's or organization's identity or to disrupt another's computer operations with malevolent programs.

"When you are on a computer you are with the whole world and not just your small, safe community," Terry said. "Cybercrime has become a world-wide business."

Terry then described how a virus, such as the Zeus Botnet (ZBot) or "king of all Malware", according to Terry, can infect a computer by collecting sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and other security tokens that can easily lead a hacker into a bank account.

Terry explained that ZBot uses social engineering to get people's most secret information.

Social engineering is the art of getting people to do things they would not usually do. Clicking on links that offer quick computer scans and free antivirus software or simply inserting a flash drive that you found into your computer can be like handing a key to your computer to a hacker.

"Once hackers are in a system, they have to have a way to get the money," Terry explained. "Most of these bad guys are in Eastern Europe and since money cannot be transferred online to Europe they need money mules."

Money mules are, usually, unsuspecting people looking for a quick buck. They are sent a job offer and instructions which prove to be a blueprint on how to launder money for the crooks.

"I believe money mules are victims as well," Terry said. "If a job offer is on the Internet saying things like work from home, no experience needed and earn cash fast, then you should keep your eyes open."

The presentation was ended with nine points that, according to NBT Bank, will protect yourself or business from cybercrime.
  • Conduct all banking activities from a standalone computer with limited access to e-mail and web browsing.
  • Initiate electronic transactions (e.g. payroll, wire transfers) under dual control with a transaction originator and a separate transaction authorizer.
  • Review all bank transactions on a daily basis and look for any unusual activity.
  • Do not access e-mails that have links, offer prizes, ask for passwords or contain poor spelling and grammar.
  • Change passwords every 45 to 60 days.
  • Frequently update antivirus and antispyware software.
  • Never include personal or sensitive data in an e-mail response.
  • Be suspicious of e-mails pretending to be from legitimate institutions and then request access credentials.
  • Whenever in doubt call your bank.
"This list may cost around $500 but it makes all the difference in the world," Stagliano concluded.