V. Miller Newton admits he can sound paranoid at times when it comes to cybersecurity.
"I'm definitely in the 1 percent of people who are hyper-aware of these security risks," said Newton, the CEO of PKWARE, a company that specializes in data encryption, Thursday, Jan. 26, at a cybersecurity seminar in Grafton. "But people need to realize that these days it's not a matter of if it happens, but when it happens."
The seminar comes just about one year after Ozaukee County fell victim to a data breach when hackers logged into the county payroll system, gaining access to the tax forms and personnel information of almost 200 county employees.
Business owners and other local officials gathered to learn how to avoid a similar fate.
The seminar was eye-opening to many in attendance.
Jim Heyer, a member of the Mequon-Thiensville Optimist Club, attended on behalf of his son's plastics company and took extensive notes throughout the presentations.
"I was especially struck by the level of risks involving passwords," said Heyer, recalling Newton's recommendations to not only change passwords regularly but to download a phone application that randomly changes passwords for all login portals.
Laura Fay, agency liaison for the Bureau of Consumer Protection, spoke about the dangers of identity theft. She described how identity theft could happen in a number of ways from simple actions like stolen mail to more intricate methods like data breaches. Fay recalled a recent incident in which a cyber thief posed as a human resources employee for the Milwaukee Bucks and was able to obtain via email the W-2 forms of several employees within the organization. Her recommendations for avoiding identity theft online was to be mindful of information shared through email, social media and other electronic means.
Newton claimed that even well-known companies like Google who pride themselves on cyber security are always at risk for data breaches. He pointed out that data breaches are not only caused by thieves with negative intentions, but also "snoops" (citing the Edward Snowden case) and ordinary people who commit basic human errors.
"Your data is everywhere online, and it is mostly out of your control," said Newton, who recommended security steps such as designating a data protection "officer" within companies and setting policies regarding information sharing.