Cyber attacks are a serious threat in the modern world and one that often goes under-reported. There is no way to know for sure how many businesses out there identified a data leak and decided to stay quiet about it. Or how many were forced to pay ransom to recover stolen data and then kept quiet about it to avoid encouraging copycats?
It’s important not to underestimate this threat. Big companies aren’t the only entities that bad actors go after. Small businesses and individuals can and do often find themselves on the receiving end of cyber-attacks.
The good news is that while these types of attacks have only become more sophisticated over the years, the majority of bad actors lack the motivation or the resources needed to pull off more advanced attacks. Thanks to that, you can avoid 90% of the most common types of attacks by simply adopting a few common sense security measures.
1 – Phishing
Can you take a guess at the most dangerous web tool that most businesses use every day? In most organizations, the answer to that question is email.
Email can be used as a delivery method for a wide range of cyber-attacks. And training your team on the basics of email security is a must if you want to avoid data breaches. Especially when it comes to employees who have high-level access to important sections of your company’s cloud and IT systems.
One common type of email attack is phishing. This refers to when attackers try to get employees to disclose valuable data by emailing them. The details of how these works differ — the bad actor may try to impersonate someone in your organization, they may try to impersonate a government agency, or they may just pretend to be a customer or journalist asking questions that seem innocent on the surface.
The potential damage caused by phishing can be limited by creating policies and software restrictions that limit what kind of information employees can access. As well as what kind of information they can share with people outside of the organization.
One great way to prevent phishing is to give employees mandatory training in email security. Or to require a few hours of training before employees get to access important files.
2 – Malware
Email can also be an effective delivery method for all sorts of nasty malware. Modern spam filters have gotten pretty good at blocking malicious links and files from being distributed via email, but it still happens. It’s important to have your team be careful regarding what links they’ll click and what files they’ll download when using email.
But what exactly is malware? The term is broadly used to describe computer programs made with malicious intent. And in the context of cyber attacks, malware can be used to copy files, delete files, monitor computer activity, gain access to private data, and much more.
One of the ways that bad actors can use malware to turn a profit is through the so-called “ransomware” attacks. The way these works is simple: a bad actor gains access to your files, makes a copy, and then erases all traces of the originals. They then contact your company and charge a ransom for the safe return of the files, threatening to either destroy them or leak them to the public if the demands are not met.
There are many ways to prevent malware from wreaking havoc on your IT infrastructure. One of them is to work closely with an IT security services provider to minimize the number of exploitable flaws in your system. Using anti-virus software and keeping updated backups of important files is also useful.
3 – Stolen credentials
Passwords are the bane of modern web security. The typical web user is nowhere near as careful with their passwords as they should be. And thanks to the massive data leaks that happen every year, there are a lot of people out there who are unaware that their favorite password has been stolen and made public.
This can make it easier for bad actors to find the passwords your employees use online. Or to guess which password they’re using for their business account based on what passwords they’ve been known to use in the past.
One of the best ways to prevent stolen credentials from becoming a problem is by making two-factor authentication mandatory on all business accounts. It’s also important to limit what kind of access each account has. Make sure no one will be able to wipe your business cloud by stealing the account of a random intern.
4 – Software exploits
There is a lot that can be said on the topic of software safety. But your main takeaway here should be this: software updates are important. Often, they are more important than people realize.
Software security flaws often go years undetected. However, once the issue is found and patched, news of its existence becomes well-known. What do bad actors do with that information? They look for potentially valuable targets who haven’t downloaded the security update yet, of course.
This is one of the reasons why so many software solutions seem to be so pushy about new updates. The time gap between an update being released and you installing that update is often when your business is most vulnerable.
Make sure security updates are enabled on all your business computers. And when possible, avoid relying on abandoned software that no longer gets updates. Software that is still being supported is usually safer.
5 – Insider attacks
This threat is hard to prepare for, but it’s worth keeping in mind. As you may have guessed, an insider cyber attack occurs when one of the company’s employees decides to act against the company’s interest. That employee may decide to leak data, steal files, share important client information with competitors, and much more.
These acts can cause severe damage to the company. And they may not even be done for malice. Even otherwise, good employees may be pushed to act against the company’s best interest if they’re being blackmailed or threatened.
Insider attacks can be hard to defend against, as most systems are built around the idea that company employees can be trusted. But you can greatly reduce the effectiveness of such attacks by creating hard limits for what kind of access each employee has.