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Urbana to host discussion on cyber security for bank customers

A forum Thursday in Urbana will highlight the impact of cyber crime for businesses and bank customers, in light of several high-profile attacks that have potentially exposed personal information of millions of Americans in recent years.

Most recently, the national credit-reporting firm Equifax confirmed a massive data breach that potentially exposed personal information of as many as 143 million Americans. Other high-profile breaches include Target, which in 2013 disclosed hackers had stolen data from millions of credit and debit cards from shoppers who had visited the retailer’s stores that holiday season. And Yahoo, the Internet search firm, last year said data associated with at least 500 million user accounts had been stolen.

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Thursday’s forum was planned even before the Equifax breach was announced as community banks have become increasingly concerned about protecting their customers’ information, said James Thurston, vice president of public relations for the Ohio Bankers League.

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“Community banks particularly were hearing more and more from their customers that this was becoming a problem,” Thurston said. “And then you get hit with this massive Equifax data breach which it looks like it’s impacting pretty much half of all Americans. That’s changed the game completely, because now the hackers have customer names, social security numbers, birth dates, address and in some cases driver’s license numbers.”

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A report released this year from Hiscox Insurance Company surveyed more than 3,000 businesses across the UK, the US and Germany. That report estimated closed to 60 percent of the firms surveyed experienced a cyber attack within the last year and two in five had dealt with more than one attack.

The Equifax breach in particular raises concerns that hackers could potentially have enough informaiton to slip through bank security measures to access customer accounts, although there is no evidence that has occurred, Thurston said.

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The forum Thursday is scheduled to include experts from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, as well as Tony Ferguson, senior vice president for SBS Cybersecurity. Topics will include why businesses are increasingly being targeted by cyber criminals, and what customers can do to protect their information. Similar events are being hosted around the state.

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The goal is to provide businesses and individuals with simple steps they can take to better protect information, said Jonathan Blanton, chief of consumer protection at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

There’s no specific law laying out what responsibilities a business like Equifax has to consumers after a security breach, Blanton said, but it’s an issue that DeWine’s office could review moving forward.

“We’re interested in that and making sure these kinds of problems don’t happen in the future,” Blanton said. “What was the failure, why did it happen and what can we put in place and what can they put in place as a fail safe to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

In the meantime, Blanton said consumers should regularly monitor their credit. A free credit report is available annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies, and consumers are urged to call their financial institution and the Ohio Attorney General’s office if they suspect fraud, he said.

“Once your information is compromised it really is a lifetime commitment to monitoring,” Blanton said. “In a lot of these breach cases the information is not used immediately. That’s why we urge people to watch that over time.

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