About 5% of all small businesses in the US have stated that hackers are the largest threat to their operations. That’s probably because there are so many ways to launch an attack.
All it takes is one employee falling for a phishing scam to throw a business into complete chaos. Every bit of the company’s confidential information will be in the hands of the attacker.
The question is, how do you prevent a cybersecurity threat or manage one when it happens? The answer is that there are a lot of ways to go about it. Check out this guide to learn how to get started.
What Is a Cybersecurity Threat?
The best way to improve cybersecurity in your business and keep your operations safe is to familiarize yourself with the enemy.
The most common hacking tactic involves malware, but it’s not the only one you’ve got to worry about.
Malware can sneak up on you because it looks completely legitimate at first glance. You’ll be asked to download a program or click on a link. As soon as you do, the malware will begin its heinous work in the background of your computer.
There are a few different types of malware that attackers will use. Trojan horses are the ones that everyone warns you about because they’re so common. Like the famous tale, these programs leave a backdoor open that hackers can use to get into your system.
As the name suggests, ransomware holds your data hostage until you pay the attacker a fee. In extreme circumstances, it can prevent you from even logging into your computer.
Wiper software destroys data by overwriting files. Worms are programs that exploit the backdoors opened by Trojan horses.
Spyware allows attackers to gain access to your system so they can gain confidential information such as your bank account login.
Your best line of defense against these attacks is to learn the difference between antimalware programs and antivirus.
Hackers can insert code into your web pages and apps via SQL injection to gain your login information. Once they grab it, they can pretend to be you.
In some cases, their end goal isn’t to gain access to your bank account. They would rather sell your info instead.
Social engineering attacks are all about mental manipulation. They scare users into giving up information that they wouldn’t under normal circumstances.
A good example is phishing. You will receive an email from an “official source” like your bank.
In most cases, the message will urge you to click on a link to resolve a problem. Nine times out of ten, the link will take you to a website that’s full of malware.
Scareware will trick you into thinking that you’ve downloaded some kind of illegal program or malware. The hacker will offer to resolve the problem for you only to attack your system if you decide to proceed.
If you’re looking for love online, you need to be careful. A social engineer hacker could spot your dating profile and use the honey trap tactic on you.
They’ll create a false identity to get you to talk to and enter a fake relationship with them. They can use their relationship with you to glean all kinds of information.
Denial of Service
There’s only so much traffic your website can take before it crashes. Hackers know that, which is where denial of service attacks come in.
The cybercriminal will use bots to flood your network with requests until it becomes too much. Unless you find a way to handle the attack, your actual customers won’t be able to get into your site.
When you’re sending data to another person, you’ve got to make sure you’re using a secure network. If you don’t, you leave yourself vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack.
A hacker can hijack the session by swapping their IP address with your client or employee’s IP address. The server won’t notice the switch and will continue the data transfer like normal.
These attacks are pretty difficult to detect because to you and the other party, it will seem like sending the data went according to plan.
Preventing an Attack
Now that you’re a bit more familiar with cybersecurity threats, it’s time to talk about how to prevent them.
To keep yourself safe, you’re going to need to practice good digital hygiene, be sure to train your employees, keep a firewall up, update your systems, backup your data, keep your passwords under lock and key, and provide all your workers with a personal account.
Practice Good Hygiene
Neglecting your cyber hygiene is a lot like having a dirty kitchen. The smell of the dropped crumbs and sticky counters entices insects to invade.
In this instance, your unprotected system is the kitchen, and the hackers are the bugs.
Set up security alerts and act upon them. Performing regular audits will help you identify your security holes and plug them before hackers get the chance to take advantage of them.
Train Your People
No matter how closely you monitor your system, it won’t matter if you don’t train your employees. All it takes is for one of them to click on a malicious link to cause a company-wide data breach.
Teach them to check links before they commit to clicking on them. They should also know how to recognize a phishing email.
Most legitimate institutions aren’t going to ask for confidential information over an email. Spelling mistakes and small inconsistencies are also red flags that you should teach your employees to look for.
Keep Your Systems up to Date
Developers are always testing their software for security holes. When they spot one, they release a patch for users to download.
Your computer will notify you when one of these patches is released. You’ll get a notification in the corner of your screen urging you to update your system. Ignoring that prompt is the largest cybersecurity mistake that a person can make.
Update notifications never seem to come at an opportune time. They always happen when you’re right in the middle of an important project, but cybercriminals won’t wait until you reach a good stopping point.
If you’re guilty of forgetting about updates, it’s recommended to set your computer up to perform them automatically.
Install a Firewall
Firewalls act as your first line of defense against malicious programs. If someone tries to brute force their way into your system, the firewall will block them.
Your firewall will need a bit of backup to keep your computer safe. That’s why you should always have antivirus software running alongside it.
Keep Backups of Your Data
Let’s say that someone made it into your system. After they finish their handiwork, you’ve lost progress on all your business projects.
The best way to combat this unfortunate scenario is to keep constant backups of everything. USB drives are cheap to come by and can store a surprising amount.
You can also keep a USB in your pocket or carry it around with you on your keyring. The only downside is that they can be a bit fragile. If you manage to break your flash drive, you’ll lose everything.
If you’re worried about that happening, you can back your data up to the Cloud or subscribe to a backup service.
Work on Your Office Security
When it comes to security, your computer isn’t the only thing that you’ve got to worry about. You’ve got to monitor your office in general.
Without a proper security system, anyone will be able to break into your building and get their hands on your data.
Use Personal Employee Accounts
Your employees should have their own individual accounts for every program that your company uses. Allowing everyone to work under the same credentials is too risky.
Not only will you improve your cybersecurity by letting your employees have their own login, but you’ll also see an uptick in productivity. The more people that are using the same account, the slower the program will run.
Protect Your Passwords
Passwords can be tricky to remember. That’s why many people write theirs down or use the same password for all their accounts.
The former is actually less risky as long as you don’t leave the paper with your passwords on it out in the open. Jot them into a notebook and keep it somewhere safe.
Make sure that you use a unique password for everything. Using the same one poses a security hazard. If a hacker manages to get their hands on it, they’ll be able to gain access to every single one of your accounts.
Managing Cybersecurity Threats
You’ve performed all the steps discussed above and still managed to fall victim to a data breach. Now what? Is it too late for your business?
The answer here is no. If you manage the attack the right way, you’ll be able to bounce back.
Prepare for the Worst
The first step in handling a breach is to be prepared. Make sure your employees are trained in what to do when an attack occurs.
The faster they’re able to respond, the faster you’ll be able to identify the source of the attack and stop it.
Identify the Attack
Your employees should notify you when they notice a security threat. The attack could be nothing, or it could be a hazard. That’s for you to determine in this step.
Analyzing your network activity and firewall logs will give you a good idea of what you’re dealing with. If it’s indeed a threat, document it and contact your team.
You should also get in touch with customers and clients to let them know that a hacker may have their information.
Contain the Problem
If you act fast enough and use the right strategy, you’ll be able to contain the malware before it manages to spread through your entire system. Find the vulnerable area where the hacker managed to slip in and isolate it if possible.
Many business owners like to get a second opinion during this step by hiring an analyst.
Eradicate the Malware
Now that you’ve managed to contain the malware, it’s time to eradicate it using an antimalware program.
From there, it’s a matter of letting your system update, performing necessary patches, and changing your passwords.
You can breathe a sigh of relief as you ease into the recovery stage of the process. Keep an eye on your computer system to make sure it’s working as it should.
Perform normal tests to ensure that the malware is actually gone and isn’t working in the background somewhere.
Learn From Your Mistakes
The last management step is to schedule a meeting with your team. Reassure everyone that the problem has been dealt with and talk about how they can help the company avoid a second attack.
Open the floor up for questions or consider having a training session on cybersecurity. Use your mistakes to come up with a new policy and put it in a place where everyone can see it.
Protect Your Business From a Cybersecurity Threat
All it takes is a single cybersecurity threat to ruin a business. Unless you’re able to act fast, the breach will ruin your reputation with your customers and cause you to lose valuable progress on company-wide projects.
Don’t let that happen to you! Use the tips that you’ve read here today to prevent attacks and contain them when they do occur.
For more tips that will help you polish your cybersecurity plan and keep your computer system safe, visit the Technology section of our blog.