Bank Robbers to Cyber Thieves – Crime in a Connected World

Famed bank robber Willie Sutton was reported to say when asked why he was still robbing banks, “because that’s where the money is!”  Fast forward 50 years or so and now as merchants and manufacturers move online to promote their goods and services, if Willie was still alive he might be making his living stealing from the comfort of his own home.  Connectivity, while improving productivity and enriching our lives, also has a tragic cost as creative yet unscrupulous thieves figure ways to relieve their victims of their cash using a computer rather that a mask and submachine gun made popular by John Dillinger in the 1930’s.  Rough Notes magazine estimates that the amount of money at risk is more than $11 trillion!

With such high stakes involved you would think that our businesses would be more careful about how they conduct business online.  However, the 2012 Verizon Data Breach Report  states that 79% of the breaches they studied were not victims of sophisticated hackers with military like precision stalking their prey, rather they were “targets of opportunity” that they “surfed on into” like a cat burglar entering the open back door of a house.  In fact, the report goes on to say that 97% of these breaches were avoidable through simple or immediate controls.  Like the naïve homeowner that leaves their doors unlocked while they run an errand, we are leaving our networks unlocked as we rush through our day trying to get all our work accomplished.

Here are some simple things we can do: Don’t leave your doors unlocked for these cyber home invaders to get in!  If you are in charge of your computer network, don’t use the default passwords like Admin, Password or Guest to gain access to your network router.  If you have a desktop with access to sensitive information, like bank account information, use strong passwords and don’t use that machine to surf the net.  A dedicated machine that limits contact with the outside will cut the chances of a keystroke logger program porting all you bank account information to an outsider.  If you carry a laptop, make sure that all sensitive information is encrypted and that you have a way to remotely wipe all data off that machine should it fall into the wrong hands.  Inexpensive software programs can help.  Lastly, don’t open a file sent to you in an email with complete confidence in the trustworthiness of the sender.   Once you open the file you can immediately become the victim of malware could track all your key strokes or allows a remote villain to gain control of your computer.

Let’s make 2013 the year that we all realize the significance of what’s at stake if we don’t follow the rules handed down by our IT staff.  $11 trillion is probably more than all the money in all the banks in Willie Sutton’s era.

By the way – If you are an insurance agent or broker, I would like to invite you to my continuing education class on March 6th at Cabelas, in Monroe, MI.   As far as I know this is the only approved course on Cyber Liability in the State of Michigan.  For more information you can contact me at or go directly to my sponsor, Cousino Harris, Sheri Pinsoneault at .