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Rotary speaker warns of cyber crime dangers
Tennessee State University professor Dr. Tamara Rogers says cyber thieves are lurking around every keyboard waiting to steal your personal information.

Quick, what’s the computing world’s worst password?
Answer: “password.”
Almost as bad is the user’s name, the name of a child or pet, with or without the usual sequence of numbers like 1, 2, 3.
Cyber thieves steal billions of dollars a year from personal computer users, businesses and financial institutions, and much of that loss could be prevented, Dr. Tamara Rogers, associate professor in the Computer Science Department at Tennessee State University, told The Rotary Club of McMinnville on Thursday.
Huge losses, monetary and emotional, occur in ransomware attacks, she said. It’s an intrusion that locks up data files and often threatens to corrupt them incurably if money is not paid to the anonymous perpetrators.
The victim’s choice could be to pay the money and hope the criminals release your computer and restore your files as promised, or suffer the threatened destruction of  your business records, cherished photos or the term paper that’s due to be submitted tomorrow morning. “The price could be hundreds of dollars, thousands or millions of dollars,” she said.
Last March and April, several large hospitals were hit by ransom attacks, she said, with hackers taking patient medical records and financial ledgers hostage. Doctors, nurses and business office personnel had to resort to keeping paper files, and in at least one case a hospital had to send all of its patients to other area facilities.
Frequent file back-ups into separate digital storage is probably the best way to frustrate the data kidnappers, Rogers noted. 
However, outboard storage must be disconnected from the main computer right after the updates or they, too, can be maliciously corrupted.
Hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, technically and psychologically, the Rotary speaker emphasized. Many computer attacks succeed when perpetrators pretend to be friendly and trusted individuals or businesses like banks or even government agencies. Clicking on an enticing, but unfamiliar, link or attachment could, within nanoseconds, give criminals total access to our computing lives. Or in the case of the Target store disaster last year, the credit and debit card information of up to 40 million customers.
Trying to keep their people on their toes, she remarked, some corporations send fake emails through their internal networks. Unwary employees who take the bait are instantly identified and then counseled, or worse.
One of the essentials of safe Internet use, Rogers said, is running antivirus software from a trusted source, such as well-known commercial software providers. And keeping it up-to-date is important because the scammers and malware vandals are constantly probing computer defenses in the hope of finding a chink in the armor.
The computer expert expands on some of her Rotary comments and addresses related issues in this week’s FOCUS interview program on public radio WCPI 91.3. The half-hour program airs Tuesday at 5 p.m.; Wednesday at 5:05 a.m.; Thursday at 1 p.m.; and Friday at 1:05 a.m.