Cyber crime: Utah’s tech success makes it a target

Local News

Utah is one of America’s fastest growing states, one that is quickly becoming a major tech center. And largely because of that growth, Utah is a target.

Cyber security experts from across America gathered in Salt Lake City Thursday, to learn how to prevent thieves from breaking in to their companies and stealing from them. Their teacher, a veteran FBI agent. Their lesson had nothing to do with closing windows and locking doors. The lesson was on how to protect themselves from cyber crime.

Special Agent Jeffrey Collins is a member of the FBI’s Cyber Crime Unit in the Salt Lake City office. Part of his crime fighting strategy involves prevention, through education. That’s why he was the keynote speaker at a national cyber security conference Thursday in Salt Lake City. ABC4.com caught up with Agent Collins, to find out what what kind of cyber crime is most prevalent, popular, and dangerous. 

“The biggest thing we’re seeing right now is an uptick in these business email compromise scams,” Collins said.

The scam is low tech, but highly effective.

“I think we had upwards of twenty million dollars in loss last year with this type of scam, in Utah alone,” the agent told ABC4.com.

Agent Collins went on to explain that any and every company with a website — and that’s almost every company in America — is vulnerable.

“It usually starts with research done by the fraudster,” he said, “where they’re going to look at your company, the website, figure out who works there, try to figure out who to target.”

As Collins explained, the name of a company manager or executive is usually the bait. An email is the hook. The “fraudster,” as Collins called them, sends an email to employees of a company, instructing them to pay for something.

 “They’re going to try and masquerade as one of the company employees,” he said, “usually someone who has the authority to direct wire transfers.”  He went on. “A fraudster is pretending to be someone within the organization, to try to get you to wire funds out of the organization.”

Successful fraudsters, Collins said, know how to play the con game.

“They’re more of a social engineering type of attack.”

And the best prevention, according to the special agent, is knowing how the scam works, and staying alert.

“Be suspicious,” Collins warned. “Report them. Do not click on every link, or open every attachment.”

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