SHERIDAN — Local IT company Ptolemy Data Systems has signed on to be one of the founding members of Made Safe in Wyoming, an initiative to bolster cybersecurity for small to mid-sized businesses throughout the state.
Patrick Wolfinbarger, a co-founder of MSIW, said the objective of the initiative was to build a “firewall” around Wyoming by strengthening the cybersecurity practices of individual businesses.
Jeremy Reynolds, an IT consultant with Ptolemy, said the company has traditionally worked on cyber-security for large companies but recognizes that cyber-threats are evolving.
“Cybersecurity is not just an enterprise problem anymore; it touches everyone,” Reynolds said. “Everybody’s data is equally important.”
Reynolds said the initiative was formed in partial response to a flood of ransomeware attacks in 2017. Ransomeware is a malicious software that encrypts all of the data on a computer’s hard drive and locks the user out of his or her computer. In order to regain access, users have to make a payment through the malware program.
In 2017, a family of ransomeware known as Petya attacked dozens of global companies and demanded Bitcoin payments to unlock their data.
Reynolds noted, however, that the affected companies were able to weather the attacks because they were global in scale and had the resources to recover.
“For an enterprise company, those attacks can be devastating; but for a business on Main Street, it could mean the end of their business,” Reynolds said.
Wolfinbarger said he has seen instances where small real estate agents have lost their entire contact database to ransomware, for example.
“It happens all the time,” Wolfinger said. “People think that, because they are in Wyoming, [no one will target them]. But if you’re on the internet, you’re no different from anybody else in any other part of the world.”
The initiative is also an effort to be proactive, and find ways to protect local businesses from cyber attacks before they’ve been targeted.
Ptolemy’s role in the initiative will be twofold. First, they will consult with and educate smaller businesses on best security practices so they can avoid data breaches. Reynolds said safe email practices and avoiding suspicious websites can go a long way toward protecting a company’s cyber-security.
He stressed especially the importance of email practices. Much of the malware that has circulated has been spread through emails, and Reynolds said, considering that, he urges clients to never open emails from someone they do not recognize. He also said he advises clients not to open attachments unless they were already expecting them; if someone with whom the business corresponds regularly has been infected with malware, the virus can hijack that person’s email and try to spread through his or her address book. Wolfinbarger added basic housekeeping practices, like not leaving passwords lying around on sticky notes and ensuring computers are located so that someone cannot easily slip a thumb-drive into a USB port, can enhance security.
Ptolemy is also creating a security solution, which will be a package of hardware and software, that is affordable and scaled to smaller businesses.
Wolfinbarger said he hopes that, through educating businesses, he will equip them to understand their security needs and seek solutions.
“Cybersecurity can be overwhelming if you try to think of it all at once,” Wolfinbarger said. “So we try to sit down with businesses and go through a checklist and empower them.” He added that he believes promoting cyber-security throughout the state will give Wyoming businesses an edge nationwide and promote a secure business environment that will make the state more attractive to outside companies.
MSIW is a nonprofit, and businesses interested in learning more about its education efforts can visit madesafeinwyoming.org.