Small-business owners gathered at the Grayson College Viticulture Center on Tuesday afternoon, meeting for lunch with an important topic of conversation – cybersafety.

Small-business owners gathered at the Grayson College Viticulture Center on Tuesday afternoon, meeting for lunch with an important topic of conversation – cybersafety.

"As the ease of use increases, so does the avenue of attack," Sherman Police Detective Jeremy Cox said. Cox led a discussion on ways individuals can prepare themselves at home and in their businesses to be aware of cyber crimes.

The discussion was part of a four-part seminar entitled, "What Would You Do? Emergency Readiness and Business Continuity," an initiative SERVPRO of Sherman and Denison worked to put together.

John Simonsen, the manager of SERVPRO of Sherman and Denison, said the idea of the seminar is to reach out to individuals and prepare them for the unexpected.

"What we deal with at SERVPRO is fires, floods in the home and almost everyone was unprepared, no matter what it was," Simonsen said. "So we started adding more preparedness initiatives. If they’re more prepared, they’re better responders, they’re less stressed and they kind of take care of things in a better way."

Simonsen said the seminars are an advanced version of that preparedness initiative for the community and for people with their own businesses.

"It’s an impact for individuals, because companies are individuals," he said.

Cox began the discussion by telling attendees that small-business cybersecurity boils down to personal cybersecurity.

"Your life directly impacts your business," he said.

Cox said that depending on the size of a victim’s cyberfootprint, being attacked in the virtual world could greatly affect the victim’s real world. He used the example of the Target hacking right before Christmas of last year.

"Target takes care of Target," Cox said. "But something they have other people do is their heating and their air conditioning. Target has to give their information to them. … If someone hacks the air conditioning company, they can hack Target."

Cox used this as an example of bringing an awareness to small-business owners about partner companies, something that Pottsboro resident Cindy Morgan could agree with.

"I have a small business, you hear about (cybercrimes) all the time of course, so it’s always a dilemma because we share information with our clients," Morgan said.

Cox explained that cybercrimes come in different forms, from copyright infringement to phishing, but hackers are not the biggest threat to Internet security.

"The biggest threat is ourselves, and what we give away unknowingly over the Internet," Cox said.

Cox said the last thing he wanted attendees to do, however, was fear the Internet.

"What I don’t want you to get from this is the feeling that you have to go unplug," Cox said. "… I don’t want you to do that. All I need you to do is be a little more conscious about what you do in your business and how that falls over and mixes in with your life. We don’t want your (personal life and business) to impact one another."

Cox used the discussion to provide tips to small-business owners about safety. He said, while there is no one remedy to always avoid Internet scams, simply using caution and preparing will benefit potential cybercrime victims.

Cox encouraged using Internet safety features that should already be in place on most computers, such as software updates, which act as patches against hackers, running anti-virus software, using discretion when entering a pin number for a debit card, turning on firewalls, avoiding spyware and adware, backing up files and using good passwords.

Simply backing up files to the Cloud or even to a CD could save important information, Cox said, and creating passwords with at least eight characters and a mixture of upper and lower case letters with numbers and symbols would greatly increase protection online. Morgan said she appreciated the tips on passwords, and even learning about how often personal information could be stolen was beneficial to know as well.

"You know going to restaurants and giving your debit card to your waiter, we all have a one in eight chance of it being stolen," Morgan said. "It’s kind of scary. Also, everything needs to have a separate password and know how to create good passwords, things like that. Some of (what he talked about) is common sense, but some of it is very helpful."

The next seminar in the series will take place at the Grayson College Viticulture Center again on Sept. 24 and will address the financial risks in small businesses.