One threat that all businesses are vulnerable to it is cyber attack. And it’s not just big enterprises with large cash reserves that are popular targets. Small businesses are likely to have made a smaller investment in cyber security measures, opening the door to numerous security vulnerabilities for criminals to exploit.
The damage to finances and business reputation following a cyber attack can be irreparable. So it’s in the best interests of every business – from SMEs to large enterprises – to up their cyber security measures to protect themselves. If there are vulnerabilities in your cyber security strategy, you’re putting your sensitive business data, and that of your customers, at risk of attack. So here are some cyber security risks businesses should be aware of.
Companies can (and do) spend billions on cyber security measures to protect themselves from ever-evolving cyber security threats. But there is a common weak link – employees. Cybercriminals know this too, and social engineering is a tried-and-tested way in for them to exploit human interactions to get access to critical data or financial information.
Employees are often targetted through malicious phishing emails, CEO impersonation fraud or other dodgy communications. Cybercriminals look to manipulate human emotions such as fear, excitement or curiosity to encourage employees to click malicious links, download unknown files containing malware or simply pass over sensitive information.
What you can do: educate employees about information security and cyber threats and set expectations around vigilance within the business. The goal is to create a company culture where cyber security is taken seriously by all employees and everyone feels comfortable and equipped to raise the alarm at the slightest hint of a threat.
Another people-related cyber security threat businesses face is insider threat. This is where employees, contractors or associates – both current or former – put business data at risk.
This can be deliberate or unintentional. The common theme is people having access to critical business data that they shouldn’t. This can also be a result of device sharing, password sharing, logging in using default credentials or various other security no-nos.
What you can do: check that every individual in your business can only access the data that they need. A thorough offboarding process where you are careful to restrict access to company systems or files once they cease working for the company is also important.
Poor information security measures
A widespread lack of education surrounding information security best practices can also be a problem for many businesses. Weak passwords are one culprit that allow cybercriminals access to critical business data. A password which is easily guessed or used across multiple accounts can cause this data to be compromised.
What you can do: enforce a strong password policy which requires passwords to contain certain special characters and be changed on a regular basis – every 90 days is common. Encouraging the use of multi-factor authentication also adds an extra level of protection. Even if a criminal got access to a password, they would not be able to access the system.
In an ideal world, everyone would be running the latest software, all patched and up to date. We’d all have the newest tech capable of running the latest software and there would be no clicking ‘Remind me later’ when pop-ups occur. But this isn’t realistic for many businesses. As budgets tighten and a reliance on legacy hardware increases, this leaves the door open for cybercriminals to target security vulnerabilities exposed through lack of security patching.
What you can do: Make sure your software patches are up to date. Don’t put off updating – the long-term cost of waiting could far outweigh any short-term benefits.
It’s not just the software that you’re running that can be a weak spot for cybercriminals to target. If your hardware – whether laptops, desktop PCs or even your trusty office printer – is so old that it can no longer support new updates, then it could be vulnerable to attack.
What you can do: keep an eye on your devices and replace any that cannot support the updates containing those all-important increased security measures.
Upgrading your cyber security defences
Having a plan to identify and mitigate risks to cyber security in your business should be a priority, not an afterthought. Some specific steps you may want to take include:
- Carry out a cyber security risk assessment across your whole business
- Audit and control who has access to sensitive information in your business
- Eliminate risks where possible, and if not possible, develop plans to mitigate them
- Develop and enforce robust cyber security procedures, policies and processes
- Have data backup and recovery plans in place in case the worst happens
The best measures to protect your business from cyber security threats are those that take a holistic look at all of your operations. This means having a robust cyber risk management plan that covers all areas at risk of increased vulnerability. As threats to cyber security are ever-evolving, your plans should also be reviewed regularly so you can stay vigilant.
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