As cyberattacks become increasingly sophisticated, it’s more important than ever to safeguard your digital front lines. Any business, no matter how small, is a potential target for hackers. In fact, smaller businesses are often less invested in security, and therefore more vulnerable. Preventing an attack is far less costly than dealing with the aftermath. Human error is the cause of more than 80% of cybersecurity breaches, with the cost to businesses worldwide growing by more than a trillion dollars a year. This includes direct financial loss, destruction of data, theft of intellectual property, lost productivity, restoration costs, and reputational damage.
Here are the most common cybersecurity threats, and the proactive measures your business can take to avoid them.
Employees are both the first line of defense against cyber-attacks and the most common cause of security breaches. Insider threats – whether intentional or not – can pose significant risks to your business. Creating an internal culture that prioritizes security is essential to combat threats that target your employees. Every business should conduct comprehensive training sessions on best practices for security and the potential consequences of cybercrime. Employee education should include training about using secure and unique passwords for every account, two-factor authentication, and the importance of reporting suspicious activity. Make sure your team really understands the role they all play in keeping your entire company safe.
Make sure your IT professionals monitor network activity for unusual or unauthorized behavior and implement strict controls to restrict employees’ access to sensitive information based on their roles. This is even more important if your company supports remote work and/or has employees who use mobile devices for business purposes. It’s smart to use mobile device management solutions which allow you to control access, enable device encryption, and remotely wipe devices that are lost or stolen.
If your business collaborates with third-party vendors and suppliers, don’t be afraid to ask them about their cybersecurity practices. You can even include language in your agreements or contracts regarding security requirements to stay vigilant about potential risks introduced by your supply chain.
Phishing – when an attacker attempts to gain access to personal information by posing as a legitimate contact – is the most common cybersecurity threat, responsible for 90% of all data breaches. Phishing most often takes the form of an email that appears to come from a trusted source, providing a link to click asking for a user’s credentials (username, passwords, etc) or a request to download a file. The attacker can then use the information to access the company network and steal sensitive data, or to install malware on the victim’s computer.
Cybercriminals are adept at using social engineering to manipulate “weak links” within an organization into divulging sensitive information. One such technique is spear phishing, a targeted version of phishing where the fraudulent email is personalized for a single recipient.
Users should be taught how to recognize and avoid phishing attempts using the following guidelines:
- If an email looks suspicious, do not open it and report it immediately.
- Don’t click on unverified email links and don’t open attachments from unknown senders.
- Don’t give out your login credentials to anyone. If you receive a request to change your password, verify the source first.
- Use unique passwords for everything and avoid using names, birthdates or other easy-to-guess information. A random password generator is the safest bet.
- Use two-factor authentication.
A ransomware attack is when your company’s data is held hostage in an attempt to extort payment. This is done by installing malware that encrypts an organization’s data and makes it inaccessible until the ransom is paid. A computer can be infected with malware delivered via email or websites and the user may not be aware that their data has been compromised until it’s too late. Businesses that fall victim to ransomware face not only data theft, but lost productivity, damaged reputations, and potential lawsuits.
To protect against ransomware, establish a robust backup system, and an IT recovery plan to ensure critical data can be restored quickly in the event of an attack. Your business should have endpoint protection solutions that can detect ransomware and mitigate threats. These solutions go beyond standard anti-virus software to secure “endpoint” devices like laptops, phones, and IoT-connected smart devices, blocking unauthorized applications, employing encryption, and allowing centralized IT monitoring. This is especially important as remote work becomes the norm and the number of endpoint devices increases. Any device with a network connection is a potential entry point for ransomware and may be targeted by cybercriminals.
And once again, educating employees on security best practices is essential to prevent ransomware attacks. Ongoing training about the use of strong passwords, not clicking suspicious links in emails, and not opening files from unknown sources remains the simplest and most effective way to protect your business.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
DDoS attacks work by flooding a network, service, or website with excessive traffic in order to cause business disruption and costly downtime. This can result in problems accessing your website, slow or unresponsive servers, and error messages. IoT devices with default logins or weak security protections are particularly vulnerable to attack, which can then spread to compromise and control other devices on the network. This group of infected devices forms a robot network, or “botnet.” Botnets can be controlled by a single source and used to carry out large-scale attacks. In addition to crippling operations, DDoS attackers may attempt to extort payment in return for stopping the attack.
Network administrators should make sure all devices are secure, and closely monitor network traffic. DDoS protection services can be employed to detect abnormalities and identify and filter out illegitimate traffic before the server is overwhelmed. Distribute resources across multiple servers and locations to ensure that a single point of failure can’t bring down your entire infrastructure.
So What Should Your Business Do?
Be proactive by implementing robust security strategies. Create comprehensive employee training to protect sensitive information and maintain the trust of customers and business partners. Partner with a Managed IT firm who will have your back every step of the way.