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Tips for Simple, Safe Cyber Security

With over 1 billion Yahoo! accounts recently compromised in a record-breaking cyber breach, many shoppers and business owners wonder if online shopping and services are still safe and if the convenience is worth the risk. Cyber security experts advise everyday users and business owners to be cautious and recommend a few simple measures that can go a long way toward protecting personal information.

Every year, the Michigan Small Business Development Center (MSBDC), Michigan Works!, Chemical Bank, and the Mecosta County Chamber of Commerce (MCCC) organize a cyber security seminar to educate local businesses and residents about the best ways to protect their information. smallbizbigthreatThis year, the Small Business, Big Threat seminar includes a no-cost cyber security assessment for attendees to measure their cyber security readiness. Jennifer Heinzman, Executive Director of the MCCC, offers tips that both business owners and online shoppers can use to keep safe online.

When it comes to online shopping, reputable sites take extra precautions to keep their shoppers’ information safe. While even big companies can make mistakes, online retail giants owe a large part of their success to their customer service, including customer protection.

“I would advise people to shop on secure, trusted websites only,” said Heinzman. “Don't click on hyperlinks embedded in e-mails and be on the lookout for phishing e-mails—if something is sent to you and seems too good to be true, it probably is. Pay attention to your credit card statements. Online shopping is convenient and can be safe as long as you are careful.”

Online scams also pose risks during the holidays and throughout the year. Phishing scams—strategies hackers employ to obtain passwords, credit card numbers, and personal information—come in many forms.

“People should be aware of scams all year, but especially during the holidays when scammers are in full force,” said Heinzman. “Hackers are now creating ‘Wi-Fi- twins’ that mimic legitimate services to steal your information. One way to prevent identity theft is to avoid using your credit card on a public Wi-Fi connection.” Heinzman also warns against common e-mail or phone scams. “People should always be aware of people calling to tell them that they have won something, they are receiving a credit for something they're not expecting, or they can be entered into a contest. If you didn't initiate the contact, it is safer to avoid over-sharing.”

To learn more about cyber security best practices and test your cyber security protocols, visit To attend the Small Business, Big Threat seminar in Big Rapids on Jan 25, e-mail