Annually, cyberattacks become more advanced, and businesses become more vulnerable. Unless one stays vigilant and informed, it's only a matter of time before one's organization falls victim of those cyberattacks. According to a report from Juniper Research, a leading analyst firm in the technology sector, cybercrime business losses will likely reach $5 trillion by the year 2024.
Cybersecurity refers to the body of practices, technologies, and processes designed to protect devices, networks, data, and programs from damage, unauthorized access, or attack. Cybersecurity may also be defined as information technology security.
Cybersecurity is critical because military, government, financial, medical, and corporate organizations collect, process, and store vast amounts of data on computers and other devices. A substantial portion of that data can be sensitive information, whether that be financial data, personal information, intellectual property, or other types of data for which exposure or unauthorized access could have negative consequences.
Here are a few of the main cybersecurity threats every organization needs to know about:
Phishing: This is a kind of social engineering where a cybercriminal sends emails that look like legitimate requests from a reputable source. Attackers may demand credit card information or login credentials (like secure passwords). Versions of Phishing include:
Vishing - Phone version of Phishing is called Vishing, where an attacker could use a spoofed caller ID like an 800-number and pose as a fraud investigator asking the victim for payment card details
Smishing - Smishing uses cell phone text messages to lure consumers in. Often the text will contain an URL or phone number saying your order has been successfully created or you won a gift card.
Denial-of-service (DoS) attack: This cyber threat works by flooding an organization's networks and servers with traffic to drain bandwidth and deplete resources, causing the inability of the company to handle legitimate requests.
Malware: This is a type of malicious software that exploits vulnerabilities to have access to an organization's network. Often, this occurs when someone unintentionally downloads a malware-laden program or clicks a nefarious link in an email attachment. Malware can either be Spyware, Viruses, or Ransomware.
Structured Query Language (SQL) injection: This attack works when the cybersecurity criminal inserts malicious code into a form on a company's app or website, which allows the attacker to uncover sensitive information.
Most of these attacks can be prevented through educating one's team on cybersecurity best practices, implementing common sense IT solutions, and implementing password security guidelines. However, as cybersecurity threats become more complicated, businesses will need to take more critical proactive measures.
Here are four steps every member of a company should begin taking immediately:
Encrypt data: Data encryption is a process that converts sensitive data into complex code. This way, if a cyber attacker steals the data, they won't be able to use it. It is good practice to encrypt all the information entering or leaving one's company.
Back up data: One of the best proactive measures one can take is to back up all of one's data and store it elsewhere. This way, if the systems are taken offline, or hackers steal one's data and hold it for ransom, one will still have access to everything needed to keep the organization operational.
Secure hardware systems: Every device on one's network – from computers to mobile phones to printers Internet of Things (IoT) devices – represents another endpoint that can be taken advantage of by cybercriminals. That's why one must always secure systems that have access to sensitive information with multi-factor authentication.
Educate the workforce: Team member negligence/errors is one of the leading causes in most data breaches – especially when it comes to phishing attacks. Taking time to educate one's workforce on best practices, how to identify possible breaches, what to do if they make a mistake, and whom to contact in the event of an emergency is one of the most important steps one can take toward protecting one's environment.
A robust cybersecurity protection strategy demands a substantial investment of energy, and technical know-how, and time that businesses frequently feel they don't have. Often, the costs linked with these efforts prevent organizations from prioritizing security. But the potential loss far outweighs any investment in protection.
For instance, globally, the average cost of a single data breach is $3.92 million, according to data from IBM. Also, small- to medium-sized businesses spend an average of $1.43 million on stolen or damaged IT assets following an incident, according to data from the Ponemon Institute, the pre-eminent research center dedicated to data protection, privacy and information security policy. For many companies, this level of financial loss could be ruinous.
By taking preventive measures, every company can reinforce their information system security and avoid a catastrophic disaster.
About the Author
Mayur Rele is a cybersecurity expert and cloud automation leader that has extensive experience in overseeing global technology, security, and cloud infrastructure in healthcare, e-commerce, and technology companies. Mayur graduated with an M.S. in Computer and Telecommunications Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and is an active IEEE researcher and contributor.
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