Cyber Security Awareness
Is Cybersecurity Important for Your Business?
Not long ago, the idea of a hacker brought to mind a seedy character dressed in black and armed with a thumb drive. Hiding in the shadows, they would sneak into the secure server room and unleash a devastating virus that would wipe out the entire system. Today, cyber threats look much different. A cybercriminal can steal critical information and delete thousands of files from thousands of miles away. With 43% of cyberattacks targeting small businesses and only 14% of small businesses being prepared to combat an attack, cybersecurity is more important than ever for your small business.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks. In simple terms, cybersecurity involves strategies and processes that protect the critical systems and sensitive information of your business from cybercriminal attacks. As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, they have an easier time breaking through typical security measures. Using social engineering and artificial intelligence (AI), cybercriminals are finding more and more ways around your data safeguards. The evolution of the cybercriminal warrants changes in cybersecurity as well.
What Are the Benefits of Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity threats aren’t just dangerous for your business’s data. A cyberattack can endanger your employees as well as your clients. Implementing a cybersecurity strategy has many benefits outside of keeping your critical information safe. Cybersecurity can help your business in the following ways:
- Workplace Safety
- Without adequate cybersecurity solutions in place, your entire system is at risk. A cyberattack can bring production to a halt as often the attack isn’t just to mine sensitive data, but to shut down your operations. Servers and data storage are commonly penetrated, but cybercriminals can gain access to every employee’s personal devices as well. Malware not only brings your workforce’s productivity to a standstill but also increases your expenses as these devices may need replacing if the damage is severe.
- Protection for Personal Information
- The personal information your business stores is valuable to your business and to a cybercriminal. Your employees and clients put their trust in you to keep their information safe. Once a hacker gains access to this sensitive information, it can then be sold to others. Often these cases lead to demands of ransom from the attacker in exchange for not releasing the stolen information.
- Overall Protection of Your Business
- Cyber protection not only protects the information and clients that you currently have, but it allows you to grow your business. More transactions and interactions are available to you when you operate on a secure platform. Sensitive information can be shared safely. The lack of this digital protection is the downfall of many small businesses. Neither investors nor clients feel safe partnering with an unprotected business.
- Improves Productivity
- On average, a ransomware attack can halt your business for 16.2 days. Just over two weeks without access to the critical data and devices needed to run your business could be devastating. In two weeks, your valued employees could potentially find jobs somewhere else, costing you even more money to start the hiring process over again.
- Keeps Your Website Running Smoothly
- What used to be a novelty for a business is now one of the most important features keeping it running: your website. When your website is down you are not only losing potential customers while it’s not operational, but also future customers. A study showed that 9% of visitors to a website will not return if they find the site down. Protection from cyber threats keeps your website up and running, keeping your current clients happy and encouraging future business.
What Types of Cybersecurity Threats Are Out There?
Another reason your small business may be more vulnerable to attack is that larger-scale organizations employ entire teams devoted exclusively to cybersecurity. Small businesses do not have the workforce to support those same efforts. Cybersecurity may be left in the hands of someone with many other responsibilities, like a manager or IT professional. That makes small businesses the perfect target for hackers.
Understanding the current threats plaguing businesses is the first step in protecting yourself from them.
- Phishing: In our next blog we will cover important steps your business can take to protect your critical data. One of those steps discusses the importance of training your employees to be smart when opening suspicious emails. Phishing schemes target employees by acting as a trusted website or business. An employee is then lured into providing information or clicking on a link that can download dangerous malware to your system.
- Ransomware: Ransomware halts operations by shutting down computers and locking up data. Your data and computer access are then held hostage. To regain access to your data, you must pay a ransom to the hacker who may or may not release the data back to you.
- Malvertising: Malware advertising consists of inserting malware into an apparently legitimate ad. This form of cyberattack is particularly dangerous because the malware is hidden on an actual site disguised as an advertisement.
- Clickjacking: This practice is similar to malvertising and involves hiding hyperlinks to dummy webpages inside links to a reputable site. Thinking they are on a trusted site, visitors are then convinced to enter sensitive information.
- Drive-by downloads: These attacks are hidden within the foundations of a website. No action is required for the malware to be downloaded to your device. The website itself is compromised and merely visiting the site compromises your computer.
What Should a Cybersecurity Strategy Include?
The above forms of cyberattack are not the only ones you may be susceptible to. Just as quickly as technology advances, so do the attacks against it. Your cybersecurity plan should incorporate multiple layers of protection against any attacks on your sensitive data. Your plan should also protect your employees from possible theft or extortion and interruption of daily business.
Your cybersecurity plan should include protections for:
- Infrastructure security
- Protecting software and hardware from both physical and cyber threats
- Network security
- Protecting data, devices, systems, and applications connected to your network
- Application security
- Protecting installed apps from outside threats
- Information security
- Protecting sensitive data from being accessed by unauthorized users
- Cloud security
- Protecting digital storage from unauthorized access or encryption
- Employee security training and awareness
- Reducing the risk of cyberattack by keeping employees informed about potential threats
- Disaster recovery or business continuity
- A plan put in place to resume your business operations following a cyberattack
Why Is Cybersecurity Important Today?
Businesses rely heavily upon computer systems and cloud storage options like Google Drive and Office 365. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have incorporated work-from-home (WFH) options. Virtual workspaces only add to an already vast reliance on cloud services. In addition, smartphones, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have all brought new vulnerabilities in security that weren’t threats in the past.
The Evolution of Cybercrime
Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent. They are less random than in years past and specific businesses are being targeted. Along with this, these attacks are more sophisticated and harder to detect and prevent. In fact, the average cost of cybercrime for an organization has increased to $13.0 million in 2021, an increase of $1.42 million. The average number of data breaches rose by 11%.
Information theft is growing quickly and is the most expensive division of cybercrime. More and more information is being stored digitally, so there is a greater amount of data available to steal. Criminals are not always seeking to steal this information. Some criminals are choosing to alter or even destroy information hoping to bring down particular government agencies or organizations by showing that they cannot be trusted with your sensitive information.
People are the weakest link in the chain of cybersecurity. As such, social engineering tends to be the most successful form of cyberattack. It’s also the simplest as it requires much less technological savvy. There has also been a rise in third-party risk. Criminals are discovering vulnerabilities outside of organizations with strong cybersecurity measures in place. These vendors, such as IT providers, are compromised to gain access to the businesses they partner with. All of this and more show the absolute need for cybersecurity within your organization and any outside parties you trust.
The Impact of Cybercrime
Any organization, regardless of size, can feel the substantial impact of a successful cyberattack. Their reputation is damaged, their productivity is less, finances are impacted, and they may have legal liability and loss of clientele.
By 2025, it is estimated that cybercrime will cost companies worldwide an estimated $10.5 trillion annually. This is a jump from $3 trillion in 2015. The COVID-19 pandemic alone has brought a 600% increase in cybercrime. These trends show that cyberattacks will only increase from here. A cybersecurity strategy is no longer merely an option. It’s a necessity that should be prioritized, and quickly.
Is Cyber Crime a Threat to Small Businesses, too?
As a small business owner, you may think that your information is safe. After all, cybercriminals are targeting huge corporations. Why would a cybercriminal target the lesser data of a small business when they could infiltrate a multi-million dollar business and come away with a bigger payday? That is what these criminals are after, isn’t it?
While the headlines are full of the biggest hacks involving huge companies, cybercriminals aren’t ones to discriminate by size. Some of the largest breaches we’ve seen started at small businesses. While you may only hear the details of the large corporation that was infiltrated, chances are the attack started somewhere much smaller. In 2014, 100 million Target account holders were informed that their data had been compromised due to a cyberattack. How did these cybercriminals infiltrate such a large organization? Through the AC. And no, they weren’t crawling through the vents Mission Impossible-style; the hackers gained access through an HVAC contractor that Target had employed.
Two-thirds of companies with less than 1,000 employees have experienced a cyberattack, and 58% have experienced a breach. In these and so many other instances, you are not only protecting your data, but also the data of any organization you partner with. All businesses need a robust cybersecurity strategy. From ransomware, phishing, DDoS (distributed denial of service), or any other threat, small businesses are a huge target for cyberattacks.
Why Are Small Businesses Targeted?
Attacks on small and medium-sized businesses aren’t nearly as lucrative as attacks on large corporations. The funds and data resources just aren’t the same. So why are hackers targeting the little guys?
- Your data is valuable: The Dark Web pays handsomely for the exact type of information that small businesses store—credit and debit card numbers, bank account info, medical records, Social Security numbers, bank account credentials, and vital business information. Every day cybercriminals are looking for new ways to steal this data from you. Small-time criminals may access bank accounts and go on a shopping spree, or they may sell the information to other criminals for an immediate payout.
- Your computers: Hackers are sometimes looking for a power boost. They will hijack your company’s computers and use them to infiltrate another company or a group of companies. These attacks, called disruptive denial-of-service, or DDoS attacks, work by generating excessive amounts of web traffic. Your hijacked computers are what generate the web traffic, bringing the other company’s operations to a halt.
- Your connections: Just like in the Target HVAC contractor story above, your connections as a small business are valuable. Every company needs connections, big or small. If you have large-scale clients in your database, cybercriminals want to get their hands on their information. And they will use you to get it.
- Your money: Hackers are primarily committing cyberattacks as a means to a profit. While some do have other agendas, political or otherwise, at the end of the day, money talks. This is why ransomware is so popular. It can be very successful and very lucrative and doesn’t require much from the hacker. And if an attack has proven to be successful before, a cybercriminal will use it again.
Companies big or small are vulnerable to cyberattacks. You never know when you may fall victim and find yourself in a desperate situation. This is why your cybersecurity strategy is of utmost importance. Elliman Technologies is here to help you maintain your company’s cybersecurity. We invite you to sign up for our cybersecurity emails for a wealth of information for protecting your employees and your business.