To say that the Internet has altered how businesses operate is an understatement. From cloud computing to social media, it is difficult to imagine running a business offline.
But the same tools that help companies thrive can also become vulnerable areas that malicious individuals and groups can target to hurt a business and its customers.
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A clear and present danger
“Cyber threat” is an umbrella term used to denote acts that have the end goal of stealing and/or unlawfully manipulating data.
And while most people have Hollywood as a reference point for cyber threats and attacks (remember the “Fappening”?), online security is a matter that affects almost everyone, because individuals, companies, and organizations are relying more and more on the Internet for various tasks and functions.
In the past, companies relied heavily on a small group of professionals for their cybersecurity needs. However, as hackers become bolder and more sophisticated in orchestrating their attacks, it becomes increasingly essential for organizations to fortify their defenses.
Beyond protecting valuable and sensitive data, companies must also recognize the fact that their customers’ data is also at stake. This idea is clearly underscored with the passage of bills and regulations around the world, the most notable of these are America’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.
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Why Cybersecurity matters?
It can happen to your company. It’s as simple as that.
As your company’s decision-maker, you need to recognize that cyber threats are real and have become more pervasive. Worse, some things are beyond your control. And as such, you will need to take calculated risks to navigate these murky waters.
Recognizing and addressing potential cyber threats is crucial for three important reasons.
- First, in a data-driven marketplace, every bit of information is valuable. Apart from the real risk of stolen data, your company may need to deal with the consequences of such a breach, often in the form of compromised operations.
- Second, a security breach can lead to unexpected costs. When your company’s cybersecurity has been compromised, you can end up spending money on additional training, new software and hardware, and the restoration of the data that has been stolen.
- Third, and probably most important of all, a security breach can lead to a tarnished image for your company. Your customers entrust you with personal information. And in return, they expect you to protect their data. Failure to do so can harm your reputation, or worse, lead to a loss of customers.
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Where cyber threats come from?
Cyber threats can come from different individuals and organizations. These include organized crime groups, hackers, industrial spies, competitors, and even unhappy employees. The motives may vary, but one thing is sure, your company can become the next victim.
But before looking elsewhere, companies need to recognize that their vulnerabilities can emanate from the inside. Looking at different incidents of data breaches, it becomes apparent that a substantial number of such incidents can be attributed to either human error or the ignorance of employees.
Although your IT team may be working doubly hard to protect your company and its data, your other employees can compromise your security through their online activities and behavior. It can be as simple as opening suspicious emails or accessing unsafe websites.
In other cases, the implementation of new IT policies and initiatives can open up a business to new vulnerabilities, especially if your company hasn’t adequately prepared for potential security breaches.
Finally, some IT teams are severely understaffed and unable to tackle security threats properly.
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Knowing potential threats you may face
Just as cyber threats can come from different fronts, these can also come in various forms. Here’s a brief overview of some of the common risks that you have to watch out for.
Through email or websites, hackers attempt to gain access to your data by misleading users to click on links, download content on a computer, or provide information.
Malware is a type of software that can wreak havoc on an IT system after downloading or installation. Sometimes, this type of software is disguised like any other software, with its real purpose hidden from a user.
Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS occurs when a server slows or crashes down after being overwhelmed by requests from multiple sources. When this happens, the system is rendered useless.
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks a computer system down through encryption. The system cannot be accessed by the company until the demands of the hackers are met.
A password or brute force attack occurs when a hacker uses a program to attain a password.
What your company can do?
With threats coming from different fronts, how exactly can companies protect themselves? Here are a few best practices that you should consider following.
Limit data access
As previously mentioned, human error is one of the most significant contributing factors in an organization’s vulnerability online. By limiting the number of people with access to sensitive data, you are drastically reducing the possibility of a breach that exploits human error.
It is also a good idea to strictly implement protective actions like deleting accounts, removing access and collecting IDs when an employee leaves your organization or transfers to a different location.
Update your software
Software developers produce updates regularly, not only to boost the usability of their products. In some cases, patches are released to cover for newly discovered vulnerabilities.
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Firewalls protect your business in two ways. First, these stop your employees from accessing unsafe or inappropriate websites. Second, firewalls offer a good measure of protection against malicious attacks.
Firewalls should be installed on all computers and devices used in your company. Make sure that the software used for this task is updated regularly.
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If you have employees that access or connect to your network through the Cloud, it is an excellent idea to use an intrusion detection/prevention system.
Protect wireless access points
Hackers can gain access to your IT system through wireless networks. As such, there are a few measures that you can enforce. These include changing administrative passwords regularly, using WiFi Protected Access 2 or WPA-2, and providing a separate wireless network for guests.
Ask your IT team to install email and browser filters, which prevent spam messages from flooding your employees’ email. You might also want to use blacklist services that prevent your team members from visiting unsafe websites.
Invest in employee training
Your employees play a critical role in preventing attacks and safeguarding sensitive company data. As such, investing in employee training is a vital part of protecting your business against malicious attacks.
During the onboarding process, new employees should learn about your IT policies. To update the knowledge of employees, you might want to take advantage of cyber security training and conferences like Cyberweek. With cyber threats becoming more sophisticated and hackers becoming bolder than ever, it can be a scary time for companies. But through careful planning and implementing stringent measures, your company can withstand a cyber attack.
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