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Federal experts host data security seminar

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Michael Mroziak, WBFO
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Local business owners and leaders learned more Wednesday about threats against data security, and how they can protect their own interests as well as those of their customers.Two sessions, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, were hosted at the studio of WBBZ-TV, located within Eastern Hills Mall in Williamsville. The sessions, which included experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Secret Service, were closed to the general public and media. Inside, though, guests received information about the very costly nature of data security breaches and data theft.

"It was General Keith Alexander, who was head of NSA a couple of years ago, who said that at that point the greatest transfer of wealth in human history was occuring because of these insiders trying to get into American companies and steal their intellectual property," said U.S. Attorney William Hochul, who was in attendance and spoke with WBFO before the morning session began. "If that was the case a couple of years ago, I would say that it's gotten even worse."

The threats come not only from hackers abroad, such as in China and Russia, but also from domestic interests including "hacktivists" who are simply trying to disrupt service or a disgruntled employee, Hochul added.

While data breaches against major corporations draw the most attention, smaller businesses are just as prone to attacks, and are at risk of financial devastation to the point of going right out of business.

"It all comes down to trust," said Peggy Penders, spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York. "We as consumers really just expect that every retailer where we're swiping our cards is going to protect that information."

Among the advice the Better Business Bureau provides to companies is to never share detailed information about their security system. Their advice for consumers includes never using email to send personal information, never store a Social Security Number or financial account numbers on smart phones or computers and be wary of insecure connections such as public places with free wi-fi.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.