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Cyber attacks are a significant issue for any new or established business in today’s digital age. Their number is growing by the day, and more organizations invest in cyber security solutions to protect themselves.
Cyber attacks can come from the outside or the inside of an organization. It’s not only cyber criminals that present security risks to a business. Employees can also compromise online security either intentionally or accidentally.
Cybercrime can be directed toward various types of sensitive data, including financial details, client databases and intellectual property. Motives for stealing or using such data vary and may be related to political views, brand sabotage or immoral competitors.
Whatever the reason behind a cyber threat, businesses must have a specific plan if a disaster strikes.
To preserve their business reputation, continue normal business operations and prevent significant financial losses, organizations have more than just one way of improving their online security. In today’s article, we’ll cover cyber attacks and how to prepare and protect your business from them.
Cyber security threats are continuously on the rise
Cyber threats are continuously rising in numbers, and studies are proving those rumours. They are supported and go together with some interesting facts that every business owner should know.
Proofpoint found that 88% of organizations experienced phishing attacks in 2019. According to RiskBased, 36 billion records were exposed due to data breaches in the first six months of 2020.
Another disturbing finding is that the US FBI confirmed a massive 300% rise in cyber crimes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Accenture revealed that 68% of business owners feel at greater risk from cyber attacks.
In their 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, Verizon revealed that the most common types of data breaches involved hacking (45%), phishing attacks (22%) and malware (17%). Cybing shared fascinating data that showed human error was the reason behind 95% of cybersecurity breaches.
Types of cybersecurity threats
According to the Security Forum, disruption (internet connection outage), distortion (spreading misinformation) and deterioration (lack of control) are the main potential cyber risks. Let’s discuss some of the most widespread cybersecurity threats in more detail.
Malware & Ransomware
Malware and ransomware attacks are other evolving type of cybersecurity threats organizations should look out for. This kind of attack can steal private information and completely disrupt how a business operates. Reputational damage and sometimes massive financial losses go hand in hand with ransomware breaches.
Phishing attacks are one of the most widely used methods by cyber attackers to trick people into taking a specific action or providing sensitive information. Typically, this is done by crafty and convincing messages and clicking on malicious email links.
Clicking on such a link installs a virus or ransomware on the device, and depending on its type, it can have various consequences for the organization.
Most employers are familiar with this cybersecurity risk and put extra effort into educating their employees and investing in anti-spam filters and software. However, phishing attacks are evolving and now use machine learning (ML) techniques to attract clicks.
Spear phishing has also gained popularity. It involves targeting specific groups of people within an organization, using their names or ranks to seem more legitimate.
Internet of Things (IoT) attacks
The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly popular in various industries and businesses, including the travel and hospitality industry. The technology is beneficial for gathering data and analytics that help improve business operations.
However, all this data is susceptible to IoT attacks and malicious activity. Attackers also gain access to connected devices such as computers, equipment, security systems, webcams and others to restrict or disrupt business operations.
Other cybersecurity threats
Cybersecurity threats are countless, but we will provide some examples to get an idea of the possible risks.
Targeted attacks may include :
- Cyber-physical attacks
- Attacks on smart vehicles
- Social engineering (psychological)
- Attacks on innovative medical devices and systems
- Attacks on third-party partners or vendors
- Nation-states attacks
- Zero-day attacks
- DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks
Things that make your business an easy target for a cyber attack
As discussed above, the intent behind a cyber-attack can vary, and so can the data that the attacker wants. That leaves no business assured it won’t be targeted by malicious activity. However, some companies are easier targets than others.
Who is at the highest risk?
Businesses of all sizes may be susceptible to cyber attacks, including large corporations and medium-sized businesses. We often hear about data breaches in large corporations and famous brands.
But even small businesses are at risk, primarily due to a lack of resources to invest in cyber security service providers or cyber security insurance. According to research, more than half of small and medium organizations felt targeted by cybercriminals.
Things that make your business a target
As research shows, the main risk for data breach remains employees, even though they can do it unintentionally. That’s why failing to educate your employees about online security plays a huge role in your business needs. Employee education is vital especially with remote working positions increasing in the past few years.
However, there are a few other factors to consider when thinking about what can jeopardise your business. Using public Wi-Fi, lack of strong passwords or data encryption and ineffective policies are in that number and can be things to make your organization a target.
Unreliable third-party vendors or partners can also be a liability for sensitive data and personally identifiable information.
All in all, it’s best to think about your business’s most valuable assets, who has access to them, are your employees educated and do you have specific prevention or action plan in case of a cyber security threat.
How to prevent cyber attacks?
The best way to deal with a cyber-attack is to prevent it. There are a few things that every business owner should strive to accomplish when speaking about cyber security.
First and most importantly, educate your employees on keeping the business secure. Inform them about the different types of cyber-attacks and make them aware of prevention tactics.
Some valuable tips to protect against phishing attacks are checking who sends an email, seeing if you recognize this address, is there something strange about it, and reading (check) the link inside an email before opening it.
Use firewalls and anti-malware software
Firewalls and anti-malware software are a must-have to protect your business. They are at the front line in your fight against cybercrime. While a firewall will protect your network, anti-virus software is a great starting point to prevent a malware data breach.
It’s also essential to keep all such programs up-to-date with new security patches as older versions are not as effective and present some weaknesses in the security.
Access, accounts, passwords and MFA
Proper control over physical access is just as important as control over digital access. It’s not unheard of for an unauthorized person to enter an organization’s premises and use USB sticks to corrupt their devices and operating systems.
As for digital access, admins should restrict access rights for most accounts and limit unauthorized software installation to prevent data breaches.
Account, password and MFA (multi-factor authentication) are interconnected aspects of cyber attack prevention strategies. It’s not recommended to use one account for multiple users (employees) access.
Rather than that, the preferred method is to use separate logins with strong passwords, longer than 12 characters and unique for each software/application. MFA implementation further increases security and access control within an organization.
Encrypting data is another great way to prevent cyber attacks by converting data into ciphertext (a code), thus making its decryption possible only by an authorized user with the matching decryption key.
Encrypting your network is possible for private and public networks, even if you are using a virtual private network (VPN) service.
How to be prepared for them?
Of course, you are trying to prevent a cyber attack from occurring in the first place. But what happens if it does happen? It’s best to have the technical preparation, which includes an intrusion detection system in place and an action plan in case of a data breach.
Technical preparation for a cyberattack can involve implementing a whole intrusion detection system, including firewalls, anti-virus software and other malware detection software. It’s essential to monitor the use of computer equipment and secure your devices and network.
Depending on the assets you want to protect, you can choose different technical preparation for your business. For example, if you’re going to protect your customers’ data, you might want to invest in high-tech and secure payment systems.
On the other hand, if somebody steals or restricts your access to your valuable information or intellectual property, you’ll probably want to regularly backup your data to continue your business operations.
Setting an action plan in case of a cyber-attack in advance will come in useful and help you limit the damage and restore business operations as soon as possible. You can completely personalize the action plan to your business assets and goals.
However, it may often incorporate signs of a data breach, such as taking a closer look at financial reports or charges and finding out you did not place such purchases. If people start telling you that they receive emails from you that you never sent, your security is probably compromised.
If you have suspicions, the first things to do are to change all passwords, clean your devices and contact your IT department to inform them. Contacting your bank and blocking cards is a must if you notice strange financial transactions.
If personal information is stolen and is being used, it’s best to contact the responsible authorities.
Prevention on the go
If you are a person on the go and want to improve your prevention strategies, you might want to focus on secure internet communications, using VPNs and refrain from using public Wi-Fi networks.
To prevent cyber attacks, it’s best to use HTTPS websites and not download software from unknown sources or providers. Providing location or personal information online is a liability to your online security.
Backing up your data, changing your passwords regularly and using MFA are all good ways to improve your cybersecurity while you are on the go.