Steve Nuñez, Mission Valley Bank Technology has changed everything. Four years ago, there were more than 10 billion connected devices, with a staggering 50 billion predicted for 2020. Each month, 328 million devices are being connected to the internet. With the prevalence of the internet of everything (IoE) — a broad term that refers to devices and consumer products connected to the internet and outfitted with expanded digital features — users need to increase their awareness of cyber threats and manage their digital world responsibly. In today’s business climate, cybercriminals target small businesses with ever-increasingly sophisticated attacks. Spoofed emails, malicious software and online social networks to obtain login credentials to businesses’ accounts, transfer funds from the accounts and steal private information are on the rise. So, what can and should businesses do to protect themselves? Because cyber-crime can devastate any small business, the best defense is a strong offense. Businesses need to start with a secure IT environment that includes up-to-date anti-virus programs, anti-spyware programs, firewalls and strong passwords that change frequently. However, reliable IT infrastructure and internal controls are not enough; employee education is vital. Hackers seek weaknesses, such as unwitting employees that may fall for one of the countless social-engineering scams that are prevalent today. Employees need to understand that cyber-crime is a real threat and that cybersecurity is taken seriously. Today’s environment requires that all businesses take the necessary steps to educate staff members on safe internet and email practices continually. Every member of the team needs to clearly understand that if they suspect that they (or someone else) may have mistakenly opened a suspicious email attachment or possibly revealed sensitive information, report it to the appropriate people as quickly as possible. If your workforce understands that by alerting management and network administrators the issue can be addressed, then they may be more likely to alert you to a possible problem. If using the same password for multiple resources, change it for each account and do not use that password in the future. When it comes to your banking, combating account takeover is also a team effort between you and your bank. Your banker will be happy to discuss the safeguards small businesses need and the programs available that can ensure fund transfers, payroll requests and withdrawals are legitimate and accurate. In addition to constant internal education, Mission Valley Bank works with clients to establish and explain safeguards small businesses need to protect themselves with online activity. Mission Valley Bank sponsors quarterly business management-focused workshops. Plan to attend the next complimentary breakfast seminar, titled “Commercial Crimes” and presented by Detective James Martinez of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unit on Thursday, Aug. 16, at Angeles National Golf Club in Sunland. Steve Nuñez is vice president, relationship manager for Mission Valley Bank. Phone: 661-753-5681.