Hackers target intellectual property

By Tyler Profilet - bio | email

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - Computer hackers may want to steal your ID or get your credit card number, but experts say you may have even more valuable information on your computer.

We're talking about stealing intellectual property, or business ideas.

Heartland business owners say they didn't think this was a problem, but say after what they learned today, they're not totally sure.

An FBI Internet crimes investigator spoke to local business owners and educators Wednesday morning in Poplar Bluff, and they said they never knew the value of the information on their computers.

"If you have the internet, and you have people who want information, they can get it," said Detective Scott Phelps with the SEMO Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Phelps says the methods computer hackers use is constantly changing.

"It is a race to keep up with technology and we fall behind frequently and then we have to try and catch up," he said.

Detective Joseph Papes with the FBI says hackers are changing their stripes and focusing on businesses to steal intellectual property or a businesses ideas

Papes says their main targets are patents, copyrights, trademarks, and, most importantly, trade secrets.

He says hackers can sell that information to other companies or foreign countries.

Papes also says they focus on research, and Three Rivers Community College Director of Computer Services Steve Atwood says his college is targeted thousands of times every day.

"Most of our attacks are automated attacks, sent through email, trying to get people to give them names and passwords," Atwood said.

But Papes says business owners shouldn't just worry about hackers.

He says fired employees sometimes try to take information from thumb drives and sell it to competitors.

While Atwood said he hasn't noticed that being a problem at Three Rivers, he says his staff is constantly on the lookout for hackers.

"The bigger your company, the larger target you are. But there's all sorts of attacks, we call them hacker wanna-bees," he said.  "Some students may go to our laboratory or library and attempt some low end hacks just for kicks and just for giggles."

Businesses in Poplar Bluff's industrial park say they are now reconsidering making promotional DVDs showing the inside of their manufacturing plants because Papes said that sometimes competitors try to copy what they see on the DVD.

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