Cybersecurity Awareness Month a reminder to keep devices safe

Technology advancements have helped strengthen bottom lines, boost revenues and create easier and faster opportunities for companies to serve and communicate with their largest customers and consumers.

Those improvements have come with a steep price -- cybersecurity intrusions that pollute IT systems and shut down operations or expose sensitive data. Technology innovations create opportunities and impose risks.

Businesses are committing top dollars to cyber warfare to fortify their systems against attack.

"Companies are spending more on cybersecurity and privacy than ever before," global financial services firm PwC noted in an analysis of global cyber-attacks.

This year, the average cost of a data breach has reached an all-time high of $4.35 million, a jump of 13% in two years, IBM reports in its 17th annual survey of chief executives across the world. Costs were highest in the U.S. at nearly $9.5 million, followed by the Middle East at almost $7.5 million.

Businesses across the nation are emphasizing tactics to raise awareness and fortify preparation and prevention efforts as part of Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October, a full-throttle effort to shackle cyber criminals who engineer sophisticated attacks that can breach even the best-protected systems.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) kicked off the effort last week, following a proclamation by President Biden designating October for the public and private sectors to cooperate to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity defenses.

"This October, we are taking this message directly to the American people because whether you're a network defender or anyone with an internet connection, we all have a role to play in strengthening the cybersecurity of our nation," CISA Director Jen Easterly said in announcing the initiative.

Cyber invasions are burdensome and costly for customers, too.

IBM's global survey found that 60% of organizations that experienced a breach raised prices for customers -- across major sectors of the economy. Health care has the highest cost of a data breach at $10.10 million, up from $9.23 million in 2021. The top five sectors by cost were unchanged from the 2021 report as financial, pharmaceuticals, technology and energy industries fell in line behind health care.

Side effects of cyber threats have worsened over the past two years as network security was not the primary focus of organizations.

The analysis from PwC noted remote work, increasing digitization and adoption of cloud services have intensified cyber threats. "As companies rushed to adapt to pandemic-inspired changes in work and business models, many seem to have left security behind," the report found.

The problems are not going away.

As with the CEO survey, a report released last wek relaying community bankers' top business concerns revealed that cybersecurity was cited as the most important internal risk and was the leader in current and future technological challenges the financial institutions note as an ongoing concern.

Beyond focusing on supporting business defenses, the federal agency is pushing cyber-hygiene steps that all Americans can take in October to defend against attacks.

CISA offers basic steps all American can take to enhance online protection:

• Recognize and report phishing: If a link looks a little off, think before you click. It could be an attempt to get sensitive information or install malware.

• Update your software: If you see a software update notification, act promptly. Better yet, turn on automatic updates.

• Use strong passwords: Set up passwords that are long, unique and randomly generated. Use a passwords manager, which will encrypt passwords securing them for you.

• Enable multi-factor authentication: Enabling several security checks makes you significantly less likely to get hacked.

FUNDING ARKANSAS FOOD ENTREPRENEURS

Two Northwest Arkansas nonprofits are cooperating to contribute $92,000 to build food-and-beverage entrepreneurs across the state.

Cureate Courses is the beneficiary and will rely on the funding to support 30 entrepreneurs and enhance the local supply chain in Arkansas and neighboring counties in Missouri and Oklahoma. Cureate offers an accelerator for the food sector that emphasizes advancement of minority- and women-owned businesses.

Funding is supplied by the Walton Family Foundation to Forge Inc., which in turn will support Cureate initiatives for the second year in a row. The grant will provide technical assistance and educational programming to entrepreneurs looking to scale their food and beverage businesses.

Cureate recently announced that 10 regional businesses have been selected to participate in the first of three cohorts offered during the 2022-2023 school year, an effort that Forge will support financially. The 10-week course will focus on consumer packaged goods, beverages and baked goods, ending with a holiday market and pitch showcase for the general public.

At the end of each cohort, all 10 businesses will participate in the pitch showcase with a chance to win a $5,000 cash prize. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to participate in a vendor fair where local buyers are invited to taste, sip and sample goods produced by the graduates.

On average, Cureate says graduating entrepreneurs have seen a 20% increase in projected annual revenue.

More information is available at cureate.co.

SEED SUMMIT

The University of Arkansas will host startup founders, civic leaders and educators at the SEED Arkansas Summit, which empowers entrepreneurs through higher education and regional initiatives.

SEED, which stands for Startups, Education and Economic Development, also spurs economic growth that retains local talent in communities across the state.

Conference sessions will be held Oct. 11-12 at the Fayetteville Public Library.

Topics will include entrepreneurial ecosystem building; innovative problem solving; and funding strategies to implement entrepreneurial programming.

Go to entrepreneurship.uark.edu/index.php for more information.

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