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State attorney general announces cyber security guide

DREW TARTER/SUN HERALD 
 Jim Hood, Attorney General for the Sate of Mississippi, discusses the state of claims filed against the oil company BP.
DREW TARTER/SUN HERALD Jim Hood, Attorney General for the Sate of Mississippi, discusses the state of claims filed against the oil company BP.

JACKSON -- The Attorney General's office has compiled a guide to protect small businesses from data breeches that might reveal their customers' personal information.

Attorney General Jim Hood announced Thursday during a news conference at his Jackson office that the guide can be found on his Web site.

Hood cited doctors' offices and attorneys' offices as prime targets for cyber attacks. With larger companies taking more steps to guard against efforts to steal personal information off their computer systems, Hood said small companies will become even more inviting targets.

But he also said big companies are still targets, citing the announcement earlier Thursday that a server had been breached for cell phone provider T-Mobile USA affecting potentially 15 million customers nationwide and at least 89,000 Mississippians.

"Any entity, whether big or small, can be the victim of a cybercrime," Hood said in a news release. "It has become second nature for most of us to lock our front doors when we leave the house.

"Companies and agencies must take basic precautions to lock their computer systems and electronic data from cyber thieves."

The majority of data breaches occur not because of "sophisticated technology, but because of employee error."

"It is very important to train employees and not just assume they know computer security basics," Hood said.

While the brochure deals with multiple issues, Hood said the most basic and most effective security is to "harden passwords" by using numbers and symbols as well as letters and to change passwords frequently.

The brochure also will be helpful to small government entities, Hood said.

The brochure included some key warnings of what not to do, including:

n Don't install unknown software and do not neglect software updates.

n Do not open email attachments from unfamiliar sources and do not respond to suspicious emails.

n Do not leave personal data unencrypted.

Hood also said people should be careful when using computers with personal data on them on unsecured, public Wi-Fi networks.

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