Technological advancements now allow people to control the temperatures of their heating systems and refrigerators through their smart phones and laptop computers. But Elk Grove Planning Commissioner and information security professional Kevin Spease says those technological advancements provide more inroads for cybercriminals.

“We know that cybercriminals will do what they always do, which is to find more opportunity,” he said at a recent Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

 “It’s happening silently behind the scenes without you knowing about it,” he said. “If you don’t take action it’s going to get worse.”

He added, “Most attacks are indiscriminate. They don’t care who you are. They just want what you have.”

What people have that cyberthieves want are tools. Spease said cybercriminals look to steal desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones. Servers are also at risk.

He said cybercriminals want to “make your computer a weapon” that is controlled remotely.

“They want to use your computer to attack someone else,” Spease warned.

The thieves also want cash, and Spease said $338 billion was stolen worldwide in 2011 including $144 billion in money. For comparison, the 2015-16 fiscal-year budget the Elk Grove City Council approved on June 10 was about $275 million.

Cyberthieves also want to steal data and other types of technology including “digital assets” such as account information, credit card information, passwords, and email messages.

“They want to use you to create other accounts and make money,” he said. “This is just icing on the cake for cybercriminals.”

The best defense is to make sure the antivirus software on each computer is updated. He said general housekeeping will reduce the risk but never eliminate the concern.

About 25 percent of computer users don’t have an updated antivirus, and 60 percent don’t encrypt or lock up their wireless fiber or “Wi-Fi” access.

Cell phones are also at risk. He said their mobile malware attacks have increased 163 percent while 78 percent of popular mobile apps were hacked. Many Internet security programs such as McAfee now also protect smartphones.