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Fast Forward

Cyber-security: A week of lessons

By - Last modified: April 26, 2013 at 2:36 PM
Hope Stephan. Photo/Amy Spangler
Hope Stephan. Photo/Amy Spangler

Do you use the same password for all your log-ins, or do you write down the dozens of different ones you use?

Don't answer! This is one of those trick questions, like "when did you stop kicking your dog?"

Know that even if you're doing the recommended things to safeguard your online life (multiple passwords, not written down), you're probably still at risk.

The cable news channels and financial blogs were humming last week after a fake tweet from the Associated Press's Twitter account sent the markets into a dip-and-recovery more heart-stopping than the Skyrush at Hersheypark. The event was so serious, the feds are investigating.

We'll save for another time the discussion on the hazards of automated trading and why we still have fund managers if algorithms are making the major decisions. Before the AP incident, I had already read this article on cyber-security that claims there are only two kinds of companies today: "those that have been hacked and those that don't know they've been hacked."

Even if that's only partially true, it's frightening, as more commerce and more of our personal lives — financial and otherwise — are digitized and move online.

Secure passwords are critical, of course, but in nearly a quarter of the cases in which a computer system was infiltrated, the hackers used "social engineering," a benign-sounding practice in which you or your employees are tricked into revealing critical security information that opens the door to the bad guys.

The AP is investigating whether it was a victim of social engineering, since a number of employees received a seemingly safe email with a link in it, apparently from an AP staffer's account, shortly before the incident.

We know — don't we? — not to open attachments or click on links in emails from people we don't know. So much for that.

If keeping our personal computers and office networks secure isn't enough to worry about, smartphones are the next target of scammers and thieves.

The week ahead

Cyber-security alert!

York County business solutions firm Stambaugh Ness has slated "Cybercrimes: Why and How to Prepare for Battle" at a number of days and times around the midstate. The sessions are free, but registration is required.

Digital forensics and the threats of cyber-attacks is the focus of a free community forum May 16 sponsored by the Government Technology Institute at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. Scheduled for 1-2:30 p.m. Register here.

Networking alert!

Tuesday: West Shore chamber, mixer: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the Harrisburg Senators' Metro Bank Park on City Island.

Thursday: Fifth Annual Cinco de Mayo Regional Mixer Fiesta, 5-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Shippensburg University; network with members of several of the region's chambers of commerce; free. Details: 717-532-5509 or

Friday: Education & Business Celebration Breakfast, 7:30-10 a.m., Central Penn College.

Stats alert!

Personal income, consumer spending and pending home sales, Monday; consumer confidence index, Tuesday; construction spending, motor vehicle sales, Wednesday; weekly unemployment claims, trade deficit, productivity, Thursday; and, rounding out the week, unemployment rate and factory orders, Friday.

The rewind

The April 26 issue of the Business Journal has this story on cyber-security and ethical hacking, the practice of using savvy computer experts to test your system security.

Ethical hacking — or penetration testing, as the professionals prefer — is a legitimate and growing profession, though it does bring to mind, at least for me, notorious old-school figures like Willie Sutton and Frank Abagnale, who paid their debts to society in the traditional ways (i.e., prison), then went on to become expert consultants — for the good guys — in their respective "fields."

Hope Stephan is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Fast Forward will usually be posted on Sundays to give you a jump on the week ahead. Contact her at

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