A cyberattack hits businesses just like a natural disaster. It’s shocking, devastating, and you’re left picking up the pieces for weeks and months after. Companies can take 197 days to identify and 69 days to contain a breach, which can cost millions of dollars in lost time and productivity.
With cyberattacks on the rise and 64% of companies globally having been hit at least once, it’s critical for entrepreneurs take concrete steps to safeguard themselves. You’ll likely be targeted in the future if you haven’t been already.
Taazaa’s tech experts explain everything you need to know about cybersecurity—including how to deal with the fallout of an attack if you’re ever affected.
Cybersecurity is using technology, processes, and best practices to keep your hardware, software, and sensitive information safe. Although it’s critical to have in place, cybersecurity isn’t perfect. As Harvard Business Review says, you can’t secure 100% of your data 100% of the time. A determined hacker, with enough time and resources at their disposal, will eventually break through your defenses.
What, then, can you do? The solution is to avoid presenting a soft target. By shoring up your defenses, implementing best practices, and generally putting time and energy into cybersecurity, you will be like Fort Knox. Make the reward not worth the effort, and attackers will automatically be driven off.
Hackers attack businesses using a few different methods and for many reasons. Depending on the type of attack, here are some of the outcomes you could face.
Hackers can steal confidential data like passwords, intellectual property like source code and design specifications for products, confidential employee data, financial reports for the company, and customer lists and sales data. This data can be sold to a competitor or used for personal financial gain.
Sometimes hackers hold your confidential data for ransom. This may be data you need to operate on a day-to-day basis or customer information you’re obliged to protect. You may have to pay anywhere from a few thousand to a few million to get your data back.
Hackers can steal your employees’ or customers’ information to access their personal accounts or commit fraud and other crimes. Some information that could be stolen includes social security numbers, credit card details, and personal identification (PI) information.
Digital infrastructure is expensive to set up and maintain. Hackers will sometimes hack into your network to utilize your resources. They may store data and run applications on your infrastructure instead of renting or buying their own.
Start by informing yourself of major cyber threats. If you can identify an attack, you can safeguard against it. Here are the major forms of cyber threats, courtesy Security Magazine.
Social engineering is manipulating and deceiving people into releasing confidential information like company login credentials. Phishing emails and “scareware” are some common mediums used for social engineering attacks.
Ransomware is a program that locks you out of your data by running a data encryption algorithm on your computer. Ransomware is often disguised as an otherwise harmless program or game. Hackers demand payment to give you a decryption key to unlock access to your data.
A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is when multiple connected online devices overwhelm a website with fake traffic. This prevents regular users from accessing your site. Furthermore, it can be used as a decoy tactic, with hackers attempting to get into your site or disabling your security setup while you’re dealing with the DDoS strike.
The third-party apps and software programs you use daily have their own vulnerabilities. Sometimes programs don’t play well with each other, which can also cause new vulnerabilities to pop up. Hackers can utilize these holes in security to access your systems and data.
You may use cloud servers for your data or to host critical business applications. Depending on your provider, they may not have the best protection. Unpatched servers, servers without passwords, and shared servers offer an open invitation to hackers.
Unless you’re a continent-spanning behemoth like Microsoft or Apple, you probably can’t afford a dedicated cybersecurity department—which is the best way to protect your business. Your IT team, if you already have one, may already be burdened with many responsibilities.
If you can’t afford to hire dedicated security personnel, it’s highly recommended that you get a security audit of your infrastructure from experts. They can identify weak links in your setup and provide you with tailored recommendations.
Here are some best practices to follow that will make you a hard target.
By identifying what scams, phishing attempts, malware, and ransomware attempts look like, you can avoid being baited and falling prey to attacks. Some techniques to read up about are phishing, bait and switch, keyloggers, and ClickJacking. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Always use anti-virus software and threat detection logs to monitor threats.
Your workers are your weakest link. According to Cybint, 95% of cybersecurity threats are due to human error. Employees, customers, and end-users can be careless or just not know enough to protect their information. As such, consider providing basic cybersecurity training to employees. Release newsletters, implement basic security checks into your legacy apps, and set up cybersecurity guidelines for everyone to follow.
Being negligent about the basics is a lot like having a door but forgetting to lock it.
- Use antivirus software for real-time threat monitoring.
- Secure your communications with a VPN.
- Only access and download from trusted sources.
- Limit access to sensitive information.
- Work with trusted providers.
- Back up your information constantly.
- Encrypt information.
- Use multi-factor authentication.
- Secure your devices and network with a firewall.
Developers routinely patch their software releases with security updates when they find and fix vulnerabilities. Make sure you frequently update your operating system, apps, and software programs to remain protected.
Cybersecurity is also about physically safeguarding your data. Ideally, you should lock away your critical infrastructure or have it hosted off-premises. Further, keep key devices and networks off-limits, and make sure you or your employees don’t lose company devices or leave them lying around in public places.
Finally, if the worst happens, cybersecurity insurance can bail you out of trouble. For a small business, a single attack can cripple day-to-day operations for many days. Recovering can be time-consuming and expensive. Insurance can reduce the financial burden.
Deal with a cyberattack decisively to reduce recovery time and quickly get back to business as usual. Here’s a quick-reference checklist:
- Analyze: Start by analyzing the threat. Determine the nature of the threat, systems affected, and potential risk or areas of concern.
- Contain: Contain the threat if possible. You could attempt to run an anti-virus scan, take your systems offline, reformat your devices, or isolate affected devices.
- Review: After the threat has been eliminated or isolated, run a review of the affected data or systems. Determine the best steps for recovery moving forward.
- Recover: Get your infrastructure back in order by recreating, rerouting, and rebuilding. Having data backups can make this process easier.
- Test: Before you resume operations and get your networks up and running, test everything to ensure the threat has been eliminated.
- Document: Document the threat—how it happened, why, when, where, and the ways you can better avoid or counter similar threats in the future.
- Inform: Inform employees, customers, or anyone else affected by the threat about the damage done.
Being the victim of a cyberattack may tarnish your reputation, which could affect your bottom line. For example, if someone hijacks your webpage and puts up inflammatory messages or a virus or malware, it’s going to turn away, annoy, and frighten customers. Take the website offline as soon as possible to avoid damaging your reputation.
Send out apologetic emails to impacted customers. Describe what happened and how you’re rectifying the problem. Set up a webpage with information on the attack. Transparency and swift, decisive action are key to maintaining a healthy public image.
Cybersecurity is always a work in progress, as hackers continuously change up their attack vectors and harness new methodologies like automation to hoodwink existing systems. You need to stay one step ahead of attackers to safeguard your digital business assets, now and in the future. Periodically shore up your existing security infrastructure and implement new industry-standard best practices for maximum security.