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How To Protect Your Company From Cyber Attacks

Chinese student found in US woods after 'cyber kidnapping' scam
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Technology has reached a level we never thought possible 20 years ago, and companies are now engaged in a constant war against cybercriminals to protect data and finances. It’s not something that can be ignored, either; just about every organization must now have an online presence of some kind, from individual freelancers right up to the corporate giants. Today we’re offering some common sense advice to stay safe.

Types of Cyber Attacks

Before you can protect your business against cybercriminals, it is important that you understand four of the main types of threats that companies face when it comes to cyber attacks today.

Probably the most common attack a business can face is a phishing crime. Phishing is when attackers send an email or a text to a person pretending to be from a trusted company. These messages might alert you that you are at risk in the hope that you will click on a dodgy link to hand over your sensitive data like bank details and passwords or download a malicious file that will then infect your device. Many phishing scams are difficult to detect as correspondence often looks genuine.

Another cyber attack that is used frequently by scammers is ransomware. Ransomware sees criminals encrypting sensitive data so that the owner can’t access it in the hope of forcing a business or user to pay to have their data returned to them. As with the nature of this type of cyber attack, there’s no guarantee that the criminals will give you your data back once you have paid their fee.

Malware is a dangerous type of cyber attack which is activated when a user clicks on a link or attachment. This then installs a malicious software onto the device. These attacks are often disguised by attackers impersonating trusted individuals within a company, such as a manager or IT staff, to make individuals click on the links.

Password attacks are employed by criminals to access accounts that hold sensitive data. These attacks involve cybercriminals entering many passwords in the hopes that they will eventually be successful in their efforts and gain access to an account. This type of attack has a relatively high success rate because people often use predictable passwords and reuse the same passwords without altering them across many different accounts.

These are just some of the most common cyber attacks that could target your business, read on to discover how you can best protect your business and its precious data should it come under attack.

Secure Your Hardware

While a lot of companies are focused on the big headline issues of malware and ransomware, protecting your hardware can sometimes get overlooked. Always start with the basics and remember that devices like laptops, mobiles, and tablets should have protections like enforced password protocols, ‘find my device’ software in case of theft or loss, and software that allows you to remote wipe your employees’ hardware.

Remember, a lot of data breaches occur as a result of lost or stolen kit. These controls above are all relatively simple to implement, and there are a number of cybersecurity companies out there that can provide good hardware coverage at reasonable prices.If you have spare devices, such as company laptops and storage devices that are not being used by staff, ensure that you secure them in a safe, locked area to prevent theft from occurring in the first place. It is also a good idea to have an inventory or logbook to keep track of how many devices you have physically at your office and how many are being used by staff to work remotely or on the road. Having a logbook will ensure that you know who has what device in their possession at all times. Not all cyber threats are online. As well as stolen kits, they can be present in the form of untrustworthy staff members or visitors to the company like contractors. With this in mind, it is important that you restrict access to IT equipment and information files to only those who need to access them.

Keep Your Systems Up to Date With Security Patches

We can’t stress enough just how important this is. All of the biggest cyber hacks of recent years have come through attackers exploiting vulnerabilities in older versions of software or through infiltrating unpatched devices. Make sure you’ve enabled automatic updates on all your company kit and set them up so that security patches and updates are enforced.

Your staff might grumble that they lose productive time while the patching process takes place, but it’s worth it to have devices and software protected against all of the latest malware.

Make Sure You Have Robust Firewalls and Antivirus

These tools will form your first and second lines of defense and are absolute must-haves. While small companies and freelancers might be able to get away with free versions, you’re going to need to pay for the best levels of security. The more you pay, the more benefits you get, including dashboard management and control of those files as well as programs you’ll allow past your defenses.

The type of antivirus and firewall will largely depend on your own company’s needs, but you’ll find a huge variety of vendors out there ready to help.

Consider Using a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the most useful tools for protection against surveillance and hacking. Vendors are now offering cloud-based solutions that encrypt all of your network traffic, allow for private remote access for your staff, and let you manage all network activity.

They make sure that no malicious parties are looking over your shoulder, and provide an added layer of protection to ensure that your company data and information is safe

Use Complex Passwords

As mentioned above, password attacks are one of the most common methods used by cybercriminals to get their hands on your data. If a cybercriminal can guess your password, then it is not strong enough. It is best to employ a company policy that encourages staff to use random and complex passwords that include plenty of numbers, varied capitalization of letters, and special characters. It is also important that staff change their passwords every few months to keep criminals on their toes. Using two-factor authentication on all accounts will also give you added protection when it comes to safeguarding your passwords and data. By ensuring password protection is turned on on all devices and software with also increase your levels of protection against cybercrime.

Educate Your Staff

It’s vital that you embed the importance of cybersecurity in the culture of your organization. You can have all the best defenses and most up to date kit there is, but if there’s a breach at the user level, this will have been for nothing. The vast majority of cyber-attacks and data breaches actually come from human error. Things like a staff member inadvertently clicking on a malicious link, or somebody losing their mobile devices.

Your staff needs regular training on how to spot phishing emails and how to spot suspicious content, scanning attachments from new contacts before opening them, and remembering to password protect any data that leaves the company.. It is important to tell your employees to always install new software updates when alerted to when logging on and off of their machines, even if this might be time-consuming. Software updates are developed to protect against the latest threats and vulnerabilities. Many workers are using their personal laptops and devices as they work from home, so it is even more important that employees don’t have the same passwords for personal and professional use to reduce the chance of attack.
You should do this from day one as part of the induction process, but don’t forget to carry out follow up exercises throughout the year.

Employ Talented Graduates

While it is absolutely vital to make sure that your staff are up to speed with the latest in cybersecurity, it is also crucial that you employ the most talented graduates to help your company grow and help it bounce back from cyber threats. Obviously, graduates in IT and cybersecurity will be important when it comes to assessing your company for areas of weakness in your online security and deciding on which data to prioritize for protection, and understanding the specific phases of an online attack. Still, other graduates will be equally valuable to your company when it comes to bouncing back from cyber attacks.

Individuals with a Master’s in Applied Statistics are highly sought after as statisticians are crucial for company growth, which is something that a cyber attack can threaten. At a time when data is at the center of everything that a business does, the importance of statistics should not be underestimated. Statisticians are essential when it comes to companies understanding and analyzing their data to track trends and plan for what to expect in the future. Those with a qualification in statistics are quick and resilient thinkers who excel at making decisions under pressure, which is a trait that will help any business that faces a cybersecurity breach to recover.

Backup your data

As we’ve seen from high profile ransomware attacks in recent years, organizations can be saved by keeping regular backups of all data. If you don’t have a backup solution and you suffered a major malware incident, it could spell the end for your business.

It is vital that you back up all of the important data that your company uses and has stored. Customer details, financial records, payment details, employee data, and document templates are all vital to the smooth running of your business, and without these, it could crumble. It’s a sensible idea to store your back-ups on the cloud where it is secure. An attack can occur at any time, so it’s always best to secure your most sensitive data first.

Even if you suffer a catastrophic malware incident and find all of your devices locked and compromised, if you’ve prepared with a backup solution, it’s a simple case of switching over and getting on with your work. There are of course costs involved in procuring new devices and cleaning up the mess, but importantly, the company will survive.

Get Cyber Insurance

As a business, you will have insurance to protect your buildings and contents in the event of a disaster. You will also have insurance to mitigate the risks of running a business, like staff compensation and liability. With the continued rise of and increased sophistication of cyber attacks, it is also important that you get cyber insurance to help recuperate from the financial loss that comes with being a victim of a cyber attack. Cyber insurance policies from trusted providers will also help to pay for your company’s recovery post-attack.

Keep Updated on the Risks

Business owners know to keep updated on developments and updates within the industries they are in to always stay one step ahead and challenge their competition. It is also important that company owners are equally well-versed in the latest cybersecurity developments and the latest scams and security risks that pose a threat to their company. You can keep up to speed with the latest threats by checking out specialist cyber blogs and news websites as well as regularly monitoring trusted government websites for updates. Spending the time to keep up to date on all things cyber security will mean that you will be best prepared on how to prevent and deal with attacks.

Have a Business Continuity Plan

This point is related to keeping the comprehensive data backups we talked about above. Just how will you continue to operate if you come under a cyber attack? Document your critical systems, and those business areas that need the most protection, and write out a step by step plan on how you intend to get up and running again if you are hacked. Make sure to regularly test your plan to make sure your staff are ready and won’t get flustered if the real thing comes along.

About the author

Jike Eric

Jike Eric has completed his degree program in Chemical Engineering. Jike covers Business and Tech news on Insider Paper.

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