San Diego Business Journal

Small businesses everywhere, beware: Computer hackers are focusing their efforts on you, according to the latest installment of the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report.

The Bay Area-based company issues the report on a semiannual basis and recently compiled data from Jan. 1 to June 30. In the report, the company finds that small business was the second-most targeted industry during the monitored six-month period. The shift is being blamed on a change in the reason why hackers attack.

According to the report, computer-based attacks traditionally motivated by curiosity or a desire by hackers to show off their technical skills are lessening and current trends point to hackers attacking to make a profit off criminal acts, including identity theft, fraud and extortion.

"Attackers are moving away from large, multipurpose attacks on network perimeters and toward smaller, more targeted attacks directed at Web and client-side applications," said Arthur Wong in a prepared statement about the report. Wong is vice president of Symantec Security Response and Managed Security Services.

One of the more profound report findings highlights a 54 percent increase in activity during the last six months of 2004 when it comes to malicious codes designed to expose confidential information online. With online shopping and Internet banking continuing to grow in popularity, the report finds that concerns about such hacking are growing "increasingly worrisome" in the computer security industry.

Symantec trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SYMC. It was trading for $17.45 as of Dec. 12. To see more of the report, go to www.symantec.com.

- - -

Plan B: With layoff news coming from all sorts of industries, from newspapers to automakers, one San Diego business is cashing in on the trend by helping would-be entrepreneurs use their retirement funds to start new businesses and purchase franchise rights.

Using provisions found in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, BeneTrends, Inc., which is based Downtown but also keeps offices in Pennsylvania, claims to sell the know-how to cash in 401(k), IRA and other retirement funds to build startup capital for people of all ages. BeneTrends founder and Chief Executive Officer Leonard Fischer developed the process his company now sells.

Fischer himself is a small-business owner with eight employees in San Diego and roughly the same in Pennsylvania. Fischer, who started his business in San Diego in 1982 and has been offering the retirement fund transfer process since 1992, estimated that between 60 percent and 70 percent of BeneTrends' clients are former corporate workers whose positions have been downsized.

"It's about helping people help themselves," Fischer said. "We really do know firsthand what it's like to run a small business and for that reason, we can offer our clients real advice."

The BeneTrends process includes the creation of a new C-corporation with a retirement plan into which entrepreneurs can reinvest their previously set-aside retirement money.

To learn more, go to www.benetrends.com.

Send small-business news to Jessica Long at jlong@sdbj.com. She can also be reached at (858) 277-6359.