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Cyberattacks are a real threat to businesses are you protected?


While businesses have benefitted from the advancement in cloud technologies and software as a service, it does not come without its risks and headaches. As technology improves and becomes more prevalent, Cyberattackers are becoming more sophisticated in terms of their tools, techniques and nefarious payloads.

Cybersecurity threats is something that I often need to educate my clients on. Setting realistic targets and optimum goals are key components of a growing business strategy, but one area that is often overlooked is cybersecurity.

To build a strong foundation for successful business – and for that business to flourish over time – you must have a solid cybersecurity framework. 

There is a common misconception to believe that as a small business, you aren’t attractive to cybercriminals. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

43% of small businesses experienced a cyberattack last year – this led to about 60% of these victims to permanently close their doors in less than six months.

Unfortunately for a small business, even the smallest of threat can prove fatal.

The majority of cyberattacks can be avoided by implementing simple security solutions and raising security threat awareness. Assume that a cyberattack is a likely event for your business, whether targeted or random.

Here are some of the common security threats and the ways to protect your business assets.

Ransomware is on the rise

Ransomware attacks are very common and cost victims billions of dollars every year. Ransomware attacks do exactly what it sounds like. Hackers deploy technologies that enable them to literally kidnap an individual or organisation’s data and hold it hostage until you pay a ransom. Sadly, those attackers love small businesses for two reasons. Firsty, they have sloppy security. Second, they are more likely to pay the ransom as compared to larger corporations.

Whether you pay the heavy ransom or bear the loss of data, ransomware attacks can kill your business.

Key steps to protect against ransomware:

  • Staff awareness – staff should be wary of unsolicited emails. Particularly those that ask for a prompt response.
  • Malware protection – install and maintain good anti-virus and malware protection software.
  • Use a spam filter to block deceptive messages from even reaching you.
  • Data backups – a series of well managed data backups will allow you to recover from an unencrypted version of a file. Make sure you regularly test your backups.

Phishing is growing more sophisticated

Phishing attacks, in which carefully targeted digital messages are transmitted to fool people into clicking on a link that can then install malware or expose sensitive data, are becoming more sophisticated.

Phishing attacks stand neck to neck with ransomware. According to a recent report, there are around 400 businesses targeted daily, and these emails are growing increasingly challenging to identify since they’re designed to mimic legitimate communication so they can gain access to your sensitive information – including usernames and passwords.

Protections against Phishing attacks:

  • Keep in mind that companies simply do not ask for sensitive information.
  • Be suspicious of unexpected emails and do not click on links or open any attachments contained in a suspicious email.
  • Malware protection – install and maintain good anti-virus and malware protection software
  • Use a spam filter to block deceptive messages from even reaching you.
  • Keep websites certificates up to date so that users are assured the legitimacy of your site.
  • Ensure you have a valid SPF record for your DNS zone file to specify which mail servers are permitted to send email on behalf of your domain.

Hacking can be detrimental

Gaining access to IT systems from outside an organisation still offers rich pickings for criminals. Traditionally they have attempted to gain access to sensitive data such as bank account information or credit card databases. However, hackers also target websites so they can use it to conduct attacks against other organisations and internet users. Hackers can host malware such as ransomware and crypto mining which can then be spread around the internet with your website as the host.

Protect against hacking attacks:

  • Deploy firewalls, data access security and secure password policies.
  • Create and maintain a rigorous patching schedule to ensure operating systems and all software (including your websites) are checked and patched to the latest security version.
  • Outdated software should be replaced and uninstalled.
  • Keep website certificates up to date to secure usernames and passwords and other sensitive information (otherwise they are sent as clear text).
  • Monitor your websites for any suspicious activities.

Insider threat is your weakest link

Staff are the biggest, most common security threat to your business. Most data and security breaches happen because of a lack of education or awareness about security. Invest in security education for your staff and set up strict security policies. The last thing you want as an entrepreneur or small-business owner is to expose your confidential business and personal information to a third party.

Protect against insider threats:

  • Training – An informed staff member is less likely to fall victim to a phishing attack or other cyber threat.
  • Disable and remove old accounts.
  • Password Policy – Use strong and complex passwords and consider using a password management tool.
  • Policy of Least Privilege – By limiting each employee’s access to only the specific resources they need to do their job.
  • Remote Working Policy – stay away from public, non-secure WIFI. If you need to work from a public location, use your phone data connection instead.
  • BYOD Policy – Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies help set the ground rules for if/how employees can use personal devices at work. This should include ensuring that every device is updated with anti-virus & anti-spam software.

Final thoughts

Cybersecurity threats are real and they are risker for small businesses. It is impossible to ward off all threats without a proper strategy. The first step towards improving cybersecurity is to understand the nature of threats your business is exposed. Invest in proper security systems and rely on professionals to protect your business against all the aforementioned threats.

Alongside technology, well-developed processes, procedures and staff training go a long way to protecting your valuable data. For example, if someone leaves your employment, make sure you remove their access. The reality today is that you should protect your digital assets with the same vigilance as you do when locking your office door at the end of the day.

Contact Virtual Pixies to find out how we can help protect your business.

Leanne Ireland

Leanne helps entrepreneurs to conquer their growing pains, reclaim their time to scale and build the business of their dreams – through a combination of systems, processes, automation and smart delegation. Leanne loves working with successful people. She especially loves conceptualising their thoughts and ideas and putting those ideas into action; that’s her magic.

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