Understanding Your Finance Department

By Charles K. Trainor

Last June, Citibank released a statement that bank information systems had been breached. Hackers accessed about 200,000 credit card customers’ names and e-mail addresses. That security breach was the latest in a series of cyberattacks on firms such as Sony, Lockheed Martin, and Google. But major corporations are not the only victims of cybercrime.

Gordon M. Snow, assistant director of the cyber division of the FBI, testified in September before the House Financial Services Committee that his agency was investigating more than 400 account takeovers by cybercriminals. He noted that a Pennsylvania school district lost $450,000 when its financial computer system was hacked by thieves. He also cited a New York school district that had $3 million drawn out of its account. Fortunately, that district spotted the transfers early in the process and recovered all but $500,000.

Cyberattacks on financial and treasury functions are a growing threat. Because many entities do not have the resources to combat these attacks, they become ready targets.

Even when safeguards are in place, hackers are clever. They react to counter defensive strategies swiftly, modifying their software to find another avenue of attack. Some organizations actually market computer malware programs, along with periodic upgrades, to other cyberthieves.

With school systems increasingly becoming the target of hackers, what can you do to protect district resources?

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