Understanding The Biggest Cyber Threats Against Small Businesses

June  03,  2019

Small businesses can reach greater audiences with less resources by embracing the cutting age of digital technology. Unfortunately, modern tech comes with a price; hacking is at an all-time high as cyber criminals embrace their own booming opportunities.

To avoid falling victim to basic tech threats and more sophisticated data dangers, keep a few of the following details in mind. By staying safe, you can maximize your tech performance and may even open up a few new lanes of business as you and your team learn more about the tech world.

Common Malware Threats

Before anything else, your business needs to harden itself against common internet threats. This means more than buying anti-virus licenses and setting user restrictions, although you may be off to a good start.

A successful business technology plan will cover protection, maintenance, user training, and logging. Your systems need to be protected against the known threats of the tech world, you need logs to record strange activities that may have been missed, and your team needs to know how to keep the network as safe as possible.

User training is probably the most important, since a tech-savvy and well-trained team will make more mistakes. This doesn't mean trusted someone who knows more computer tricks than others; your team needs to prove their security competence no matter how skilled they seem.

What sites do they browse? Do they know how to report a malware infection to IT support? Do they know how to properly review and categorize websites, emails, messages, and files? Do they know how to report problems as they arise?

Having a team that not only knows how to stay out of trouble, but what to do when they land in tech trouble can mean the difference between a slow computer for a day or two or losing major data superiority in a compromise.

Here are a few main points to cover when working with a security consultant:

  • What security suite will be used?
  • How can users submit information for whitelists (allowed) and blacklists (blocked)?
  • How many virus removal tasks are covered in the agreement?
  • How is security information logged?
  • What kind of training will be given to users, and how often?

Those points are a good starting point for any business that wants to be more than a few networked, vulnerable computers in an office. Close up vulnerabilities, train your team to be more efficiently vigilant, and spend less on staying safe by getting everything right from the beginning.

Targeted Phishing and Infiltration

Many malware attacks come from stumbling upon websites with shady links, or being the victim of random spam email lists. Unfortunately, small businesses have something more persistent cyber criminals want: more money than most individuals and less security than large corporations.

Small businesses are like the first tier of great-paying hack targets. Whether it's a sophisticated hack with innovative code or a tricky email that someone on your team believed, your business needs to pay extra attention to who wants access to your systems and your free time.

Phishing is a social engineering attack in which criminals pretend to be someone you should trust. They may call your sales team and pretend to be an investor, call your accounts payable team while pretending to be a vendor who needs payment, or they may impersonate law enforcement to scare your team out of information.

Both information and actual money can be siphoned out in a single attack. They may want credit card information or payments, or they may want to map out your business to find other weaknesses.

The best way to train against phishing is to have a plan for any kind of response. There should never be a call that is so high-profile or scary that someone spills vital information because they're too afraid to ask questions.

If a lawyer calls, they need to be directed to a legal team. If an invoice comes in, there needs to be a way to confirm that your company actually owes money. Even if you owe money, make sure that the payment is going to the right bank and not some impostor who stole your vendor's information.

Phishing can lead to even more phishing, and that stolen vendor information example is an easy way to siphon money no matter how strong your anti-virus protection may be. Cyber security is just as much about data and hardware as psychology and con artistry.

Ransomware: Today's Biggest CyberSec Topic

There are multiple general areas to cover, but one specific threat comes from the rising ransomware trend.

Ransomware is a type of attack that scrambles your information into an unreadable format, then sells you a key to unlock the information. Your files are otherwise useless, rendered to a jumbled mess with no current fix.

The dangerous part of ransomware is encryption. Encryption is legitimate and useful, and the tech world uses it every day to scramble sensitive information. The illegal part comes from using viruses such as trojans or other threats to run an encryption task against your will.

There is no guarantee that ransomware thieves will give the information back when paid. In some of the few cases where thieves cooperated, they lost the encryption unlocking key and were unable to help their victims out of pure incompetence.

Ransomware is a big topic, and major tech minds are working on breaking through the problem. While some thieves are caught and even extradited for international crimes, there are a lot of victims. Your productivity will likely sink if you wait on justice, so be sure to have a backup plan in lieu of perfect protection.

Backups are one of the most reliable defenses against ransomware so far. If you have a backup of your vital files, you can simply erase the affected data and load your clean data. Restoring from backups can be time-consuming, but it's barely a scratch compared to the massive damage from complete data loss or paying the ransom.

Keep in mind that your backups can be infected as well. A cyber security professional can help you develop a plan for backing up on daily, weekly, monthly, or semi-annually while searching for infections before exposing your safe backups. A mixture of backup dates can give you multiple options while having a cascading list of clean files even if your team accidentally backs up a virus.

The most vital part of tech security is in the planning. You need to speak with IT services professionals to figure out the best security model that works for your business. Having a plan and clear steps will make installation and participation from your team members a lot easier.

Contact an AllSafe IT to discuss other topics vital to small business security and success.

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