ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — With Rockford’s small businesses becoming increasing targets of cyber intrusions, experts offered advice Tuesday on how to protect integral data from hackers.

“The worst feeling in the whole wide world [was when I had to] call my customer to say that [we had a] breach,” said Beth Schroeder, who owns The Bricks Venue Center, at 125 Walnut Street in Cherry Valley.

Ten years ago, a hacker gained access to her business data.

Schroeder said Tuesday’s Cyber Security and Fraud Prevention class, presented by German American State Bank, was a perfect opportunity for businesses to learn to be proactive.

“Learning about cybersecurity is different than it was ten years ago,” she said. “There’s been a huge change. You have to keep learning and growing.”

German American State Bank President and CEO Warren Laube said technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and many businesses don’t know the red flags to look out for.

“This presentation provides our clients with the education to spot the red flags to keep their businesses safer,” he said.

“Learning about fraud is super important, so we’re all aware of what’s happening in the industry, not only to protect ourselves but to protect our customers,” Schroeder said.

Rockford University is adding Cyber Security as a new major, expanding its computer science department.

The university is also offering a new grant, the Horizon Grant, to allow students to attend classes for $5,000 a year to help students have better access to quickly-changing technologies.

“In computer science, that curve is almost straight up exponentially changing. So, we have to constantly be innovative and I think this is one of the ways to be innovative,” said Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs at Rockford University, Michael Perry. “Also, it provides access for our students at a smaller university to a program that is often at, maybe, at the larger universities.”

According to Rockford University, there are more than 755,000 jobs available in cyber security in the United States, right now.

A fact sheet on cybersecurity topics is available here.

If you’ve lost money to a phone scam, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission by clicking here.

The FTC’s Business Center has a Data Security section with up-to-date listings of relevant cases and other free resources.