Act on this retired FBI agent’s cybersecurity advice

Jeff Lanza
Jeff Lanza The Lanza Group

Hackers like soft targets.

And that’s just what you are if you don’t routinely download updates to the operating systems on your phone or computer. You’re soft if you visit your bank’s website through a web browser. And browsing with Internet Explorer when you do go online means you’re a soft target.

Being soft doesn’t mean you’ll get attacked by hackers more than the next cyber citizen. Most everyone gets hit eventually.

“It doesn’t mean it has to be a successful attack,” said Jeff Lanza, a former FBI special agent who is now focused on cybersecurity for businesses and individuals.

Technology and smart habits can turn anyone into a hard target, and that means unsuccessful attacks and security.

“Hackers move on to the weakest targets,” Lanza said.

Lanza is familiar to Kansas Citians, having been the local voice for the Federal Bureau of Investigation for roughly two decades. He retired seven years ago and spends his time speaking about security issues for businesses and individuals.

He was set to speak Wednesday evening at Freedom Bank at a Kansas City Bytes program sponsored by Cosentry and Silver Arrow Technologies, information technology firms.

Cybersecurity efforts work best in layers, Lanza typically advises his audiences. Any one of several layers might be breached, but not all of them.

Behavior also dictates the outcomes of attacks, and Lanza offers a list of recommended habits.

▪ Don’t click on links or open attachments in emails you didn’t expect to get, even if the sender is someone you know. Especially avoid a link that purports to take you to your bank online, Lanza says. Go directly to the bank’s site or use a bookmark from a previous online visit. The best connection yet is to use your bank’s app instead of going to its website through a browser.

▪ Use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browsers that offer more online security than Microsoft’s soon-to-be discontinued Internet Explorer.

▪ Rely on a smartphone for online activity instead of a desktop computer, whose operating systems predate the cybersecurity era and tend to be filled with patches. Make sure you have all the patches by updating operating systems on devices and apps you use.

▪ Remember to log out after completing online transactions, as leaving the session open invites hackers to step in behind you.

System designers are doing their best to shield consumers of all stripes from cyber attacks. But success depends equally on using the technology prudently.

“You need to hit it from both fronts,” Lanza said. “We all need to take security as a matter of our own personal responsibility.”

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mdkcstar.