Fending Off Hackers

When it comes to computer hackers, small companies are just as vulnerable as big ones. And it's getting worse: The FBI says the number of pending cybercrime cases has risen 115% in the past three years--and those are only the incidents that have been reported.

CASE IN POINT: For Blaine Hadlock, president of Zebra Online Marketing Services, a Federal Way (Wash.) marketing and Web-hosting outfit, it was a nightmare come to life. A hacker somehow got access to Zebra's password files and "literally stopped the computers from working," Hadlock says. When the system crashed, so did all of Zebra's clients' sites. It cost some $30,000 just to bring the system on-line again--not counting the freebies he offered clients to keep them on board. The Boston-based hacker was caught and he's negotiating punishment with authorities. Hadlock still has no idea why he was targeted.


Need something to worry about? Check out the World Wide Web Consortium's security site at www.w3.org/security/faq. You'll find a comprehensive list of things to fear as well as some defenses and easy-to-understand explanations of Internet security terminology. At www.securityportal.com, you can get daily news updates on the battle against hackers. You can also order a free weekly e-newsletter.

Fighting Computer Crime, by Donn Parker (1998, Wiley, $34.99), takes you inside the hacker's mind and tells you what to do about cyberassaults. For a faster read, try Small Business Internet for Dummies, by Greg Holden (1998, IDG, $24.99). Chapters 10 and 11 are especially useful, with tips on how to pick a good password (use at least six characters), and how to manage e-commerce.