Unless you’ve been living under a rock you have no doubt been hearing about the string of recent cybersecurity attacks on businesses. Ransomware, data breaches, and hacking are becoming increasingly common, even for smaller businesses, and cybercriminals are getting more creative in how they attack.
Cyber-attacks are something you should be concerned about and prepared for, even if your business is on the smaller side. Cyber-attackers can launch an attack without human intervention and cyber-attacks are constantly evolving. Business leaders should be aware of some of the most common types.
Malware (malicious software) is a catch-all term that refers to software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or network. Malware can include spyware, worms, viruses, and ransomware. Malware uses a vulnerability to penetrate a network when a user clicks a “planted” link or email attachment, which is then used to install harmful software inside the system.
Malware harm your business by:
- Denying access to the critical components of the network
- Obtaining private information by retrieving data from a hard drive
- Disrupting your systems or even rendering them inoperable
Malware comes in many different forms, including:
Viruses are harmful programs intended to spread from computer to computer (or other connected devices) infecting applications. The virus replicates itself, contaminating other code in the computer system. Viruses can also adhere themselves to executable code or associate themselves with a file by creating a look-alike decoy file that carries the virus.
Trojans are programs hiding inside a useful program with malicious purposes. Trojans are commonly used to establish a backdoor to be exploited by attackers.
Worms are self-contained programs that propagate across networks and computers. Worms are often installed through email attachments, sending a copy of themselves to every contact in the users’ address book. They can easily overload an email server and achieve a denial-of-service attack.
Once ransomware infects, it then denies the victim access until a ransom is paid. Advanced ransomware can encrypt the victim’s data so that it is impossible to decrypt without a decryption key which can only be obtained after paying a ransom. Ransomware is usually delivered through phishing emails and exploits unpatched vulnerabilities in software.
Spyware is a type of program intended to collect information about users, their systems, or browsing habits. It then sends the collected data to a remote user. The attacker can then use the information for blackmailing purposes or to download and install other malicious programs from the web.
Phishing attacks are extremely common and involve sending fraudulent emails to users. The fraudulent emails often have the appearance of being legit. The email attempts to entice the user to click on a link or open an attachment containing malicious code.
Phishing attacks can also occur via social networks, online communities, phone calls, and text messages. Phishing often leverages social media or public information sources to collect info about your work, interests, and activities—giving attackers an edge in convincing you they’re not who they say.
Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks
Occurs when an attacker intercepts a two-party transaction and inserts themselves in the middle. From there, attackers can steal and manipulate data. This type of attack usually exploits security vulnerabilities in a network, such as an unsecured public WiFi, this kind of attack is challenging to detect, as the victim thinks the information is going to its intended destination.
Denial-of-Service (DOS) Attacks
DOS attacks work by flooding systems, servers, and/or networks with traffic to overload resources and bandwidth, therefore, taking a system offline and paving the way for other cyber-attacks.
Passwords are the most widespread method of gaining access to a secure information system, making them attractive to cyber attackers. By identifying a password, an attacker can gain entry to confidential or critical data and systems, including the ability to manipulate and control said data/systems.
Password attackers use a variety of methods to identify passwords, including using social engineering, gaining access to a password database, testing the network connection to obtain unencrypted passwords, or simply guessing.
Account lockout practices and two-factor authentication are beneficial at preventing a password attack. Account lockout features can freeze the account out after several invalid password attempts, and two-factor authentication adds a layer of security, requiring the user to log in to enter a secondary code.
What makes for successful cybersecurity for small and mid-sized businesses?
Defending against cyber-attacks is challenging for any business, regardless of its size. But this is particularly true for smaller organizations because their resources are typically limited, so every investment into security needs to bring impactful results.
Being proactive and having a focused plan is critical to executing any cybersecurity strategy, especially when resources are limited. Smaller and midsize companies may think that they aren’t large enough to need to worry about cybersecurity initiatives, but without a proactive, well-executed plan, and expert guidance, they might be sitting ducks. Some experts might say having a good security strategy is even more important for smaller businesses than larger ones because even though smaller businesses don’t experience cyber-attacks as often as their larger counterparts, with a smaller organization downtime due to a cyber-attack can have an ever-bigger impact on the bottom line.
Cybersecurity success lies in being proactive.
Proactive security measures and prompt disaster recovery capabilities are the biggest factors in a successful cybersecurity strategy. If your business leaders have the mindset that security incidents will inevitably occur, and that reacting to these incidents will have more of a negative impact on the bottom line than planning ahead will, you have the foundation for a winning security strategy.
The first step in improving your cybersecurity is understanding your risk, and where you can make the biggest improvements. A cybersecurity risk assessment can help you identify where you are vulnerable, and help you create a plan of action—which might include user training, guidance on securing passwords and email, and advice on protecting your business’s information assets.
The pain caused by a cyber-attack can range from mild annoyance to complete destruction of your business so immediate identification of cyber risks and incident response is critical. A poorly executed response to a security incident can blow your IT budget faster than just about anything else. According to some reports, more than 60% of small businesses would go under in the event of a mid-sized cyber-attack.
Taking a multifaceted approach to cybersecurity is your best bet.
Because there are so many different types of cyber threats, and they can disrupt your business in so many ways, your best bet in safeguarding against cyber threats it to cover all your bases. Some of the measures you should take include multi-factor authentication, endpoint detection, threat detection, data encryption, segmented networks, regular data back-ups, and regular system updates.
You should also implement and test a Disaster Recovery/Incident Response plan. Such a plan will reveal any gaps in your security measures, plan for patching any vulnerabilities, and detail how you will share threat information. If you run a business with vast amounts of sensitive data or complex systems, you might consider using a third-party penetration testing service to check how tight your security measures are and how well you can guard against an attack.
Remember security doesn’t exist for security’s sake; it should serve your business.
It might seem counterintuitive to spend money to plan for an attack on your business that hasn’t happened. Statistics show that small businesses are being attacked more and more frequently. You need to ask yourself if it happens to you, could your business recover? In addition to monetary damages, you might also have to legal fees, compliance penalties, loss of reputation, and loss of customers.
Many growing businesses say their in-house IT staff is simply too busy or doesn’t have the in-depth cybersecurity knowledge to properly implement or upgrade security systems. A managed service provider like Auxiom can help you put measures into place to track security threats and neutralize them. By using a managed service provider you don’t have to worry about internal bandwidth or being a cybersecurity expert.