Cyberattacks on businesses of all sizes are all over the news. These incidents have become so common that many don’t even make the headlines anymore. But what is causing this seemingly never-ending rise in cyberattacks?
To answer this question, we have to look at what makes a business so vulnerable. Let’s face it–cyber risk will never be zero, but some things make some businesses more vulnerable than others.
Let’s try to cover the main cyber dangers for businesses today.
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What makes businesses vulnerable to cyberattacks
In a world where nearly all business processes have been digitized to some extent, the prevalence of cyberattacks should be no surprise. But that doesn’t mean that businesses should accept the risk or think that all are equally vulnerable.
Unless it’s a highly-sophisticated nation-state attack, most cyberattacks are avoidable. The leading causes of cyber risk stem from poor cyber hygiene, which include:
- Outdated software opening up system vulnerabilities
- Employees who aren’t security-aware, making them prone to phishing and other scams
- Poor data handling – no backups and no encryption
- Lack of vendor risk management – vendors play a key role in a business’ security posture
Improving your cyber hygiene is a constant process. It requires dedication and allocation of resources.
What are the main cyber dangers for businesses?
There is a growing number of cyber threats that should have companies on high alert. Adding to the threat is the shortage of experienced and skilled cybersecurity professionals. The recent spike in remote working is also contributing to more attacks.
Hackers are using several sophisticated techniques to carry out attacks. Here are the main ones:
Ransomware is malware that encrypts the victim’s files. The criminals then hold the files for ransom. If the victim pays the ransom, the files are usually returned. Otherwise, they are deleted from the system or sold off. The average ransomware attack costs $4.62 million, but small-medium businesses usually pay much less.
The ransom payment is only part of the problem. There is also a loss of productivity, system downtime, and a hit to the business’s reputation.
One of the most effective measures against ransomware is having backups of your sensitive files. Business cloud storage services help you store data securely and back it up with a set schedule. Hackers will lose all leverage if you have backups of your sensitive data.
Phishing and spam emails are the leading cause of ransomware attacks. Phishing is a social engineering technique where attackers pose as reputable individuals or companies to make the victim give up sensitive information. They usually contain malicious links or attachments that contain malware.
Most phishing emails are easy to detect, but some are highly sophisticated and well-planned. Advanced social engineering attacks can last for months, with the hackers using that time to gather as much information on the victim as possible.
Employee training is critical in avoiding phishing and other social engineering attacks. Employees should never click on links or attachments from unverified contacts. Email spam filters are also great for preventing malicious emails from reaching employee inboxes.
Sometimes, it’s not weaknesses in the victim’s systems that lead to a data breach. Businesses today are very inter-connected. They exchange goods, data, and share the same infrastructures. This opens up many supply chain risks. A vulnerability in one vendor can jeopardize the security of all organizations they collaborate with.
Data shows that 54% of data breaches are directly or indirectly linked to a third-party vulnerability. One good example is the devastating attack on SolarWinds – a popular software service provider for the U.S. government and other prominent organizations.
Businesses must take third-party risk seriously. Security assessments and questionnaires are necessary before signing any contracts or agreements. Since cyber postures change constantly, continuously monitoring your vendors is also necessary.
Distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS)
A DDoS attack isn’t a data breach. Instead, it’s an attack aiming to overwhelm the victim’s website or services with fake traffic via botnets. A successful DDoS attack will disrupt regular operations, causing downtime for normal users. The main motivations behind DDoS attacks targeting small-medium businesses are:
- Extortion – attackers will attempt to extract a payment from the victim in exchange for stopping the attack
- Business competition – businesses may target their competitors to prevent them from participating in significant events (such as Black Friday).
To prevent DDoS attacks, you can reduce your attack surface area. One way to do so is to place your computation resources behind a content delivery network. You could also look into increasing your server capacity. You will need to do this anyway as your business grows.
With the rapid digitalization of business processes and the increase in remote working, cybercrime is at its highest point ever. There are plenty of risks to look out for, including:
- Ransomware attacks
- Social engineering techniques
- Third-party vulnerabilities, etc.
Secure cloud storage is a great way to store your data and prevent unauthorized access. Businesses should also invest in educating their employees about common cyber risks, such as phishing.
Also read: Ports At Risk of Cyber Attack