Even with the world’s most secure computer network, human error or negligence will always be a cybersecurity issue. (Photo: Getty)

From a remote location in any part of the world with internet access, a hacker uses access credentials obtained from an unsuspecting county employee who inadvertently responded to a phishing email. In minutes, the cybercriminal locates a property tax database containing extensive information about homeowners, including in some cases, credit card and checking information used to pay their tax bills. In a clandestine manner, the data is copied and, just as swiftly as the criminal entered the system, the hacker disappears. The county fails to detect the intrusion for more than six months, until they are contacted by numerous financial institutions informing them they are the likely source of their customers’ personal information used to make fraudulent purchases and bank account withdrawals. The incident becomes a serious liability for the county as well as a public relations scandal that cycles in the media – and the courts – for years.

We hear about large-scale data breaches so often in the news that they have become commonplace. People aren’t sure how it will affect them, if at all (it will). And even if it may, they don’t really know what to do about it. Many view it predominantly as a retail problem, but even public entities such as schools and municipalities can be targeted for a damaging cyber attack.

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