Cyber attacks often sound like something that you read or hear about in the news, as a rule, attached to a big company name. This fact, combined with the false notion that smaller businesses are simply not as attractive as targets of such deliberate exploitation, makes small business owners believe that they are safe as is.
The problem becomes more apparent as time goes by, and statistics indicate that about half of all cyber attacks are deliberately aimed at smaller businesses – simply put, it is much easier to bypass rudimentary security than it is to exploit a larger company with good security in place.
It is estimated that around a quarter of businesses have no serious security policy or employee training to mitigate and prevent harm caused by cyber attacks and that yet another quarter have outdated measures in place. Unless you are selling something physically, chances are that you are handling data and that a good part of it is sensitive and thus needs to be protected.
What constitutes a cyber attack?
In short, a cyber attack is many things but can be summed up as malicious exploitation of your network and systems in order to make some sort of gain. The gain comes typically from stealing your data, holding it hostage and extorting your business, or even leaking your business practices to competition, thereby tanking you with customers.
To provide you with some examples of what a typical cyber attack is, it can entail anything from the below:
- Identity and intellectual property theft
- Website and image defacement
- Phishing and malware
- Hardware and software stealing
- Password theft
- Privacy and messaging abuse, etc.
These are only a few examples from a much longer and considerably more creative list of things that can happen and that entail considerable or even irreparable consequences for your business and reputation.
How can my business avoid cyber attacks?
There are excellent strategies that can be quickly and even cheaply implemented to curb any of the above mentioned scenarios and/or to mitigate damage caused by the same. We have broken down some of the most important things you need to reevaluate below.
1. Software Updates
This may seem like a no-brainer, but statistics indicate that a not insignificant number of cyber attacks are not actually a result of a super savvy team of hackers on the other end, and are instead simply a consequence of an existing weakness in a system that is not up to date.
The problem with software that is not up to date is that it is relatively easy for hackers to identify and exploit that before you are able to properly respond to the threat. As soon as they are in, it is very difficult to regain control of your systems before it is too late.
To prevent this, a good course of action is to get on a good managed security solution plan as soon as possible. In case your IT team is stretched or too small, consider hiring remotely. Your systems and software (especially antivirus) absolutely need to be up to date all the time.
2. Employee Training
It is crucial to have all your staff properly trained in principles of cyber security. This will mean that it will be necessary to have each of your employees educated on various scenarios and approaches a malicious individual or group may take to get to your data.
Employees are gateways to such attacks in almost a third of these attacks, typically because of lack of awareness and common sense. It is astounding how many of the malicious attempts actually entail simply sending a link that someone clicks, and they are in.
Hires need training to be able to distinguish between legitimate sources and emails and links that are malicious, and not to download any attachments coming from such emails, for example. They also need to be aware not to leave sensitive physical materials in easy to access areas, such as hard drives, paper documents, and so on. Work should not be taken home either if not necessary and your hardware should not leave your premises unless that is needed.
If a business does not have the know-how or capacities to provide these key training sessions to employees, a good idea is to outsource and have an expert speak.
Brute attacks on networks are a thing and these breaches cost a lot of money to manage and repair. Preventing these is usually as simple as installing a network firewall that will prevent these attacks from causing harm to a business.
In brief, an efficient firewall will keep your systems safe, and along with a good antivirus, tick a lot of your security concern boxes all at once.
4. Multi-Factor Authentication
Having a strong password is not always enough nowadays as cyber attacks are getting more and more sophisticated. If all applications that access the internet need to provide multiple pieces of information to in fact gain that access, it becomes extremely difficult for hackers to exploit your business.
If all employees are required to provide several confirmations of entry, then hackers have a very hard time breaching – in turn protecting your systems and data.
5. Data Backup
Hackers often damage your business by causing you data losses and removing crucial information, data, systems, and so on. To mitigate this, you need to have a good data backup plan in place so that in the eventuality that something does happen, you can restore and repair and damage caused.
Further, losing sensitive data is incredibly detrimental to a business and it is estimated that a large percentage of businesses impacted by malicious attacks of this sort never recover and go bust. Even if the data loss seems minuscule, we need to understand that any loss is stalled business, and stalls cost real money.