By Erin Jones

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Cyber security experts say cyber criminals are working overtime this holiday season.

A Dallas-based company is monitoring what’s happening in real time.

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In his 21 years with the FBI, Robert Anderson oversaw some of the biggest cyber security investigations.

Now, in the private sector he’s using his expertise to help businesses and their employees fight cyber attacks as the CEO of Cyber Defense Labs.

“Bad guys, bad gals constantly look at things that are happening,” he said. “They can launch attacks that make it easier on them.”

“Everyone is distracted,” Cyber Defense Labs President Jason Cook said. “They’re trying to have a good time. They’re trying to travel. They’re trying to do anything else but really focus on cyber security.”

The company, headquartered in Dallas, is monitoring threats and attacks for their clients in the banking, finance, healthcare and manufacturing industries 24/7.

“What we’re seeing are thousands and thousands of attack attempts on a daily basis,” Cook said. “Multiple types of attacks always happen.”

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Their job is to detect which could hurt their clients and respond to them.

“These days, it doesn’t matter if you’re a small business, a very large business or even a government institution, you’re going to be attacked,” Cook said.

Last month, the House Oversight Committee determined that in three major ransomware attacks this year criminals took advantage of minor security lapses, such as weak passwords, which led to enormously costly attacks.

“What people need to realize is these attacks nowadays are very sophisticated email attacks where you click on an attachment and it launches malware into your system,” Anderson said. “They don’t look fake anymore.”

He says:

*Be familiar with the current types of cyber attacks occurring

*Use a VPN – or virtual private network

*Use robust passwords

*Don’t save passwords on your phone or where others can access them

*Two factor authentication always helps

“Then one of the biggest things that I would recommend is if you have any suspicion of any email or any attachment take the time to pick up the phone and call somebody and see that they actually sent you that,” Anderson said.

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He also said in many cases he finds that companies don’t have a contingency plan in place to mount a response against cyber attacks. This is a must.

Erin Jones