Small businesses at greater risk for cyberattack, experts say

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A couple from Asbury Park is recovering from a cyberattack so severe they had to shut down their small business and reopen it under a different name. And while theirs may be an extreme example, small businesses are increasingly becoming targets of cyber warfare.

Jenna and Robert Lazar ran Epoch Trading Post in Asbury Park, selling art and printed novelty items. Their problems began when they used an online service to hire a web designer based in India to come up with a new website.

The Lazars say that the relationship went bad and they ended the contract early. Within hours, the cyberattack had begun. The hacker, who they believe was their former web designer, locked them out of their website, email server and both their business and personal social media accounts.

“It was account after account of trying to type in passwords and it shaking and saying ‘password incorrect, password incorrect,’” Jenna Lazar recalls.

“To be attacked in that manner, it felt really personal,” Robert Lazar says.

The Lazars filed a police report but because the hacker was overseas, law enforcement officials said there wasn’t much that could be done. Unable to fully secure their online accounts, they eventually dissolved the business and started a new company named After the Rain.

A report from the internet security company Symantec found 43 percent of cyberattacks now target small and mid-sized businesses.

Detective Sgt. Ryan Hoppock of the New Jersey State Police Cybercrimes unit says attacks like the one on the Lazars should encourage all New Jerseyans to be more careful about securing their web, email and social media accounts. He says that if a hacker can get control of one key account – like a primary email – they can use it to reset passwords and take control of others.

“Who owns these platforms?” Hoppock says. “If you control them, you own them. And by simply handing over access to someone else, you could be giving them the keys to the castle.”

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