Cybersecurity Basics: How Businesses Can Prepare and Defend Against Cyber Attacks
Cybersecurity is the protection of internet-connected systems such as hardware, software and data from cyberthreats. The practice is used by individuals and enterprises to protect against unauthorized access to data centers and other computerized systems.
From XSS attacks, in which attackers insert new lines of code into unsecured website components, to phishing attacks targeting group email accounts and malicious malware with obscure file links, cybersecurity is a growing concern for small business owners. For this reason, it’s vital that they understand cybersecurity basics and how to protect their systems from data breaches throughout their day-to-day operations, whether that’s creating a website or understanding how best to host their website.
Organizations and small businesses implement cybersecurity measures to defend sensitive data from both internal and external threats and to best prepare for an attack. As much as the infrastructure improves also hacker’s methods improve and makes more sophisticated for organizations to block the attacks.
It is nearly impossible to eliminate all threats but organizations can greatly reduce business exposure to hackers by establishing a strong cybersecurity foundation.
According the survey done on the Small Business Administration, 38% of the small businesses are struggling and vulnerable to cyber attacks. Hackers target smaller enterprises for two primary reasons: One, because they know that small companies are often vulnerable without the resources of an IT team, and two, small businesses may also have partnerships with larger companies, providing a direct pathway for hackers to reach their sensitive data.
For effective protection, there are 3 primary cyber security threats to small businesses that must be understood;
Phishing is a technique for attempting to acquire sensitive data, such as bank account numbers, through a fraudulent solicitation in email or on a web site, in which the perpetrator masquerades as a legitimate business or reputable person. Members of organization and work emails are a leading cause of data breach because they provide an open and direct way into the business networks.
Hackers access computers through emails and can result in significant expenses and damage. Ransomware is a type of malware designed to extort money from its victims, who are blocked or prevented from accessing data on their systems.
Malware includes a variety of cyber threats such as trojans and viruses. In these attacks, hackers use code to break into private networks with the intention of stealing or destroying data. Malware attacks usually originate from fraudulent downloads, spam emails or from connecting to other infected devices, potentially costing businesses an excessive amount of money to repair.
How can small businesses protect themselves?
Small businesses suffer a lot from cyber attacks more than larger enterprises because they lack the necessary resources to respond to attack. There is a five-step system framework that helps businesses increase their cyber security preparedness. These are Identify, Detect, Protect, Respond, Recover.
The first step of creating a cybersecurity plan is to identify all devices, accounts, and data that need monitoring and protection. This includes:
- Equipment. Computers, laptop POS systems, smartphones, routers
- Network. Your Wi-Fi network and VPN
- Account credentials. Login information for email accounts, company software and tools, computer and laptops
- Your website. Including client information, inventory and your payment processor
- Cloud Storage. Any files or information utilizing cloud storage
Your business needs a multifaceted approach to defend against cyber threats. Here are the primary steps:
-Appoint an employee to direct all cybersecurity initiatives (If you’re the only employee, you’ll have to manage it yourself or hire a reputable contractor).
-Install antivirus software, full-disk encryption and host-based firewalls. Set up all software to install updates automatically.
-Only allow authorized staff to login to your systems and your network.
-Require strong passwords for all devices and accounts and update them every six months. Strong passwords have:
- At least 8 characters
- One or more uppercase letters
- One special character
- One number
-Implement email spam filters.
-Provide staff training on the most common threats.
-Perform regular security audits to ensure there are no holes in your system.
-Backup all critical assets.
-Use multi-factor authentication.
-Use a secure payment processor to protect your client data.
Your first line of defense is consistently monitoring your network systems. Any unusual or suspicious activity, such as unknown login attempts, strange file transfers or movement of data should be reported to your security point person and investigated immediately.
-Identify which systems or data have been compromised.
Confirm the type of attack.
-Inform all users on your network. If the source of the breach was an email, inform all employees to immediately delete it.
-Take the source computer, system or application offline to isolate the attack.
-Have your point person or an IT professional check for any backdoors hackers may have set up to regain access in the future.
-Identify the damage.
Recovering from a cyberattack can feel overwhelming. Like any unfortunate incident, take it as a learning experience and iterate on your security so it doesn’t happen again. After an attack, remain patient and allow your systems and employees to prioritize recovery before resuming business as usual or pursuing new initiatives. Meanwhile:
-Inform law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
-Remain transparent and inform clients or customers about the breach to regain their trust. While a cybersecurity attack can hurt your reputation, not sharing the information with your stakeholders can cause more damage than good.