Experts say computer hacks are more common than ever

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CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- "Don't put anything on the internet that you don't want anyone else seeing because they probably will at some point," said ProCircular security engineer Bryan Prather-Huff.

Cybercrime is a growing threat and targeting every person and business on the internet. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts cybercrime will cost the world more than $6 trillion in less than five years. That makes it more profitable than all of the major illegal drug trades combined. TV9 looked into how likely you are to become a victim.

While breaches at major corporations get headlines, everyday people are becoming increasing targets for hackers. From smart watches to smart cars, we have more devices than ever that are connected to the internet and can be hacked. Cybersecurity experts say the internet is growing faster than our ability to secure it.

"They're looking to use your computer or part of your computer to attack somebody else. So, frequently they'll attach to a machine at an accounting firm or at a law office to go hack a hospital," said ProCircular CEO Aaron Warner.

Warner says hackers use that method to hide like a burglar might use a mask and gloves.

"An IP address does not equal a person," said Prather-Huff. "We can't necessarily tell if it's an independent, the activity of a botnet, right off the bat we can't always identify."

If hackers aren't on your computer itself, Warner says they're after the most efficient way to steal your identity.

"I think the most common thing that hackers are looking for nowadays is medical records," said Warner. "Credit cards on the internet sell for about $10. Medical records sell for between $300 and $400."

That's because medical records have social security numbers, which unlike a credit card, you can't cancel.

"We thought we had a great system that was really protected, but as it turned out it wasn't," Kirkwood Community College President Mick Starcevich said.

That’s one reason hackers targeted Kirkwood Community College.
Five years ago, a breach gave hackers access to the names, addresses and social security numbers of thousands of students.

"It was paid by the Chinese government, that's what the FBI told us. Sometimes they just go in and don't take anything, the FBI thinks that's what happened. But we don't know," said Starcevich.

The school says they've had no indication hackers used the information after the attack but it still added up in the end.

"The breach cost us 300 thousand," said Starcevich. "We took out insurance and made it available for every student record. (We) sent them a note and said, 'okay, for two years, we will cover any expense."

Kirkwood also hired two security firms and now initiate frequent "stress tests" to make sure their data is safe. A report from CyberSecurity Ventures estimates in 5 years, global spending on cybersecurity will top $1 trillion.

"In an accounting firm, let's say they have four accountants, it costs $40,000 to kick the hacker out to secure the network and then to let all of their customers know," Warner said.

Heartland Credit Restoration says if you suspect you're the victim of a hack, don't close your accounts, contact your creditors and ask credit bureaus to put a fraud alert on your account.