Internet hackers have been around almost as along as the internet has. New cyberthreats are always emerging, whether it’s a new virus, ransomware, or a new kind of infection. How can a small business keep up, when there are new cyberthreats emerging on almost a daily basis?
What are Cyberthreats?
The term “cyberthreat” is usually used in reference to information security. A cyberthreat is any malicious attack that happens online with the aim of stealing or damaging data. It also refers to any malicious attack that seeks to disrupt digital activity in general.
It’s important to note that, while cyberthreats are incidents that happen online, they have real-world impact. Cyberthreats can impede a business or organisation significantly. In some situations there’s the potential for life-threatening consequences.
Some examples of cyberthreats include:
- Computer viruses: includes trojan viruses, which are innocuous-seeming programmes with a hidden malicious function.
- Malware: software that’s specifically designed to attack a system in some way, or perform some kind of malicious task, upon entering a system.
- Phishing: typically carried out via email, a phishing attack is one where the attacker sends messages designed to trick recipients into handing over money or personal information.
- Data breaches: the theft of data. In some cases, a phishing attack or malware may be used to enter the target system in order to access data.
- Ransomware attacks: the attacker takes control of a target system and encrypts sensitive information on that system, and then attempts to extort a ransom in exchange for relinquishing control over the data.
- Denial of service (DoS) attacks: the cyber attacker takes over one or more devices and uses them to attack a target. A common method is to “recruit” thousands of devices to flood a website, use up its available bandwidth, and cause it to malfunction or crash.
Where do Cyberthreats Come From?
A cyberthreat can come from a wide range of sources. The attacker may be a business competitor, a criminal or terrorist organisation, or even another country or nation state. In some cases the attacker is an individual—a hacker, or an “insider” unhappy with the status quo.
Cyberattacks can take many different forms, and be carried out by many different individuals and organisations. As technology advances and new forms of cyberattack are developed, it’s increasingly important that businesses do all they can to protect themselves. Fortunately, even small businesses can put in place a security plan that helps protect sensitive and important data.
1. Stay abreast of new and emerging risks
One of the most important things any business can do to protect itself from cyberattacks is to understand the risks involved—and to understand that new vulnerabilities are being exposed and exploited on a near-constant basis. That means the organisation should do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of its data. This is more important than ever with the enactment of the GDPR, regardless of the UK’s status within the EU.
2. Develop a security system
Even the smallest business needs a security system in place—meaning a system of hardware, software, and protocols that help the business safeguard its operations and data. An effective security system should include protocols for routine security measures, as well as an incident response plan that is deployed in any situation where security is compromised. It should also include routines for regularly backing up data, to ensure that business can proceed as normal in the event of a ransomware or DoS attack.
3. Keep it all up-to-date
Big software vendors are continually refining and updating their products, especially in order to prevent the exploitation of vulnerabilities in security. As fast as a hacker group discovers a new way of exploiting a software programme, the developers of that programme work to develop a means of preventing that exploitation.
For businesses, that means it’s essential to ensure that any and all software products are kept up-to-date. That includes not just operating systems, but also word-processing, communication, and security software. And, of course, it also includes any anti-virus, anti-malware, or anti-spyware software that’s used as part of the organisation’s security system.
The security system itself also needs to be kept updated. New kinds of threats emerge on a regular basis—ransomware is relatively recent, for instance—and this means an effective security system must be flexible enough that it can be adapted to protect against any emerging threats.
4. Educate your staff
Finally, it’s vital that an organisation ensure that all its employees are trained to use any digital systems safely. This means, for instance, that employees should use multi-factor authentication when signing into workplace accounts, and that everyone should be well-versed in the signs of phishing attacks and other points of system entry that may be exploited.
In addition, it’s important that access to sensitive information is restricted on a “need-to-know” basis. This is a particularly pressing issue not only due to concerns over the security of data relating to private citizens, but also because access to data is one of the main tools that cybercriminals use to gain leverage over an organisation.
If you’re concerned about cyber threats affecting your business, get in touch with ACUTEC today.