A business becoming a target of a cyber security data breach can have devastating effects both financially and operationally. Cyber criminals also tend to go after customer data which can often be irreparable to business reputations.
One of the biggest mistakes a small business owner can make is assuming just because you are ‘small’, you will be overlooked by cyber criminals. No matter how big or small an organisation is, you should be protected with effective cyber security to avoid disasters.
Some of the most common cyber security threats which small businesses face are Malware, Ransomware and Phishing but what are they exactly and how can small businesses protect themselves?
Malicious software (aka Malware) can cause disruption, damage, and betray individuals and/or businesses through viruses, spyware, trojans or worms which infect computer systems. Through this harmful software, hackers can gain access to important and confidential information including bank or credit card details as well as taking control over one’s computer system to obtain further data.
Ransomware is a type of malware which locks down your system and data files until a ransom is paid. Ransomware is a low-risk and high-reward method of hacking for cyber criminals, which is commonly executed through malicious but legitimate looking links or attachments.
If a user clicks or downloads these links or attachments, most ransomware encrypts a user’s data and then demands a ransom to restore access. Ransom is typically requested in a form of cryptocurrency. However, if a ransom is paid to hackers, this doesn’t guarantee you will gain access to your computer system or data again and will only make your data vulnerable to a repeat attack.
Phishing (pronounced fishing) are harmful emails from businesses or individuals you think you know, as these emails are disguised to look almost identical to emails you may normally receive from these senders. Logos, branding and phrases are mimicked so the user is deceived to click on the link or attachment within the emails, some which can also contain malware. Users are then asked to provide their personal information including bank details, passwords or are prompted to pay a fake account.
Keep in mind, phishing is not limited only to emails. Hackers can target users through text messages, social media, or instant messaging applications. Be cautious of messages including:
- Requests for payment, especially if urgent or overdue
- Changes to bank accounts
- Requests to check or confirm login details if these have not been actioned by yourself
How to protect your business from a cyber attack
There are numerous ways you can protect yourself from hackers obtaining your data, however it is also prudent to become more aware of the kinds of emails or texts you may be receiving.
The below outlines a few simple steps which can assist in keeping your data impenetrable:
- Only click on e-mail attachments and pop-ups that you trust.
This is one of the most common methods for a hacker to gain access to your information as emails are disguised to look almost identical to reputable businesses. Once the user clicks on the link, malware starts to infect the computer system. Malware is now beginning to target users through text messaging as well. If unsure about any emails or texts you receive, the best thing you can do is to delete them.
- Install a variety of firewall, anti-virus and anti-malware software
It may seem like a lot but having this protective layer assists in isolating and blocking any suspicious activity or threats through scanning your incoming network data.
- Keep your passwords strong and have different passwords for different accounts.
This may seem simple enough, but this factor is one a lot of people tend to neglect. If the same password is used across various logins, it’ll be easier for hackers to retrieve your data.
- Set up multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (aka MFA) adds extra security to your data as it typically requires a combination of something only the user knows (secret question, pin number etc.) plus a code from an authenticator app and a touch ID. Having multiple layers of identity protection makes it a lot harder for cyber criminals to attack your business.
- Always continue to update your operating systems, software applications and backup your business data
Ensure your systems have better online security and improved protection from cyber-attacks by turning on auto-updates and auto-backups of software and data, allowing continuous monitoring and installation of updates to your systems as well as backing up your data without manual prompting.
These features can also be scheduled for certain times in the day to avoid any disruption to business trading. Auto-updates and back-ups provide peace of mind so if any issues arise in the future, getting business back up and running is a lot easier.