It’s no easy task to face cyber crime head on and try to stop it. Businesses all over the world are coming to realize just how dangerous the cyber world can be. Data is more valuable than ever before, but it’s also quite vulnerable to attacks. Big businesses have had to deal with this unfortunate reality for years, but small businesses are certainly not immune either. Recent research shows that in the U.K. alone, small businesses lose the equivalent of about $1.3 billion each year due to cyber crime. Needless to say, while big businesses may have the big bucks, small businesses don’t have the same resources to protect themselves, making them prime targets. Whether big or small, companies can take a number of steps to prevent cyber criminals before they leave lasting damage to their organizations.
Beating prospective attackers often requires business leaders to know exactly how they work. Most cyber attacks can be broken down into four steps. The first one is reconnaissance, where the attackers probe networks and systems, finding any vulnerabilities they can exploit. The second is intrusion, the step where attackers actually penetrate and gain access to the system. The third step happens when attackers insert malware into the system, covertly leaving damaging code behind. The fourth and last step is the clean-up phase, where attackers work to leave little to no trace an attack even happened. Indeed, many businesses have likely been the victims of an attack without even knowing it. By understanding how the criminals work and the different tactics behind their attacks, businesses can work to protect their organizations by examining how to tackle each step.
Often the best defense is the simplest one. Businesses should deploy defenses that, while basic, are still effective in repelling attacks. Defenses like antivirus software and encryption can be extremely important, but it’s shocking just how many companies don’t use them. Experts say up to 20% of small businesses don’t make use of antivirus programs and 60% don’t even encrypt their data. These basic defense measures can go a long way toward protecting a business’s systems from outside attacks. Even if they don’t stop all attacks, if they stop the majority of them, they are well worth the investment.
Employees can provide valuable skills and insights to their organization, but unfortunately they can also lead to increased security risk. Some employee behaviors, most of them unintentional, and a general lack of awareness tend to open the door to cyber criminals. For this reason, employee training is an essential part of preventing cyber attacks. Workers need to know how to use strong passwords and not to duplicate them for each authentication procedure. They need to be made aware of all the security threats out there so their actions don’t make the company more vulnerable. If employees know about the dangers of suspicious links, phishing emails, and social engineering scams, they’ll be less likely to expose devices and networks to harmful malware. Educated employees as the first line of defense can be a real asset in protecting valuable company information.
As mentioned before, one reason small businesses are a big target for cyber criminals is the lack of resources for dealing with security issues compared to large corporations. With limited budgets and fewer staff to focus on IT and network security, small and even medium-sized businesses often have difficulty keeping all their systems up to speed with the latest security threats. With this in mind, one step many smaller enterprises can take is outsourcing their systems to a third party. For example, if a business uses a cloud computing vendor to store important data and files, the vendor will be the one in charge of making sure that data stays secure and protected. Since one thing cloud providers need to focus on is security, they can spend the resources, time, and effort to make sure cyber criminals are stopped. That’s not to say the client business should always take a hands-off approach--after all, they need to investigate the provider to see if they have adequate security features--but the bulk of the security work can be handled by someone outside the organization as needed.
Security is not the simplest issue for companies to tackle, but that doesn’t mean it should be avoided or ignored. All it takes is some knowledge of the problem and the right preparation to make a big difference. Cyber attackers pursue easy targets, so it’s important to make a company as difficult of a target to strike as possible. With this in mind, businesses will be able to fight back against those who wish them harm.