Business cyber security threats are growing year on year. Cyber criminals are constantly finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and infiltrate networks, leading to data breaches, financial loss, and reputational damage. To safeguard your business, it’s crucial to understand these threats and take proactive steps to prevent them.
Let’s uncover the most prevalent cyber security threats faced by businesses and discover our recommendations o how to protect your organisation.
Social engineering attacks exploit human psychology (especially trust and kindness) to manipulate individuals into performing actions or revealing sensitive information. This can include impersonation, pretexting, baiting, or phishing attacks (which we’ll cover below).
To protect against social engineering, educate employees about common tactics used by attackers, establish clear procedures for verifying identities, and implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible.
Phishing is a specific type of attack within the broader category of social engineering. It’s probably more widely know about, and focuses on deceiving individuals via electronic communications. Cyber criminals masquerade as trustworthy people or organisations to manipulate employees into revealing sensitive information or performing malicious actions.
These attacks are typically conducted through links on emails, SMS, or social media messages. To protect against phishing attacks, here are some best practices and steps you can take:
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts an organisation’s data and demands a ransom to restore access. It’s commonly distributed through infected email attachments, malicious download, or compromised websites. If your business suffers from a ransomware attack, you may be tempted to pay the demand in order to regain access to your devices and data, but paying the ransom can exacerbate the problem.
It’s important to remember you’re dealing with criminals who might decide to hold out for more money if you’re a bit too willing to pay. All that time, your data is being held hostage, potentially available to criminals and rivals, and stopping you from doing your business.
To protect against ransomware, regularly back up your data, keep systems and software up to date, encrypt data, deploy strong firewalls, use malware detection tools, and train employees to recognise and report suspicious activity.
Malware refers to any software designed to damage or gain unauthorised access to computer systems or networks. It includes viruses, worms, trojans, and spyware. Malware can be spread through infected email attachments, malicious websites, or devices that access the network whether via cables or wirelessly.
To defend against malware, install reputable antivirus software, regularly update your systems and software, and educate employees about the risks of downloading or opening suspicious files.
Insider threats involve malicious or negligent actions of employees, contractors, or other trusted individuals within an organisation. These threats can include intentional data theft, accidental data breaches, or sabotage.
Mitigate insider threats by implementing strict access controls, monitoring user activity, conducting regular security training and providing clear guidelines and policies for data handling. Managers should grant entry to restricted parts of the network on a need-to-access basis, and withdraw access from individuals as soon as that need ends. Of course, this also means when an employee leaves a company or contract, but it could also be after a project has finished, or once the data for a project has been gathered. You’ll probably find that most employees have access to dozens of areas or services that they never use.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks
DDoS attacks aim to overload a target’s network, making it inaccessible to legitimate users. Cyber criminals achieve this by flooding the target with an overwhelming amount of traffic or requests.
To mitigate DDoS attacks, use traffic monitoring tools, implement strong firewalls, use load balancing to distribute traffic, and work with your internet service provider to detect and block suspicious traffic. Let your host know if you are expecting a surge in traffic (e.g. if you are having a promotion or a new 4K video is being released), so they can boost traffic availability and not raise a false positive DDoS alert.
Many businesses rely on third-party vendors and suppliers for various services, which can introduce additional cyber security risks. Poor security practices or compromised systems within third-party organisations can lead to data breaches or unauthorised access to your network.
Help to reduce third-party risks by using due diligence on vendors, regularly assessing their security practices and implementing strict contractual agreements that outline security requirements. Keep your eye on the news to see if any of your partners have suffered breaches.
Internet of Things (IoT) vulnerabilities
As you incorporate more IoT devices, your network can become a target-rich environment for criminals. IoT devices often lack robust security features and it can be difficult to update their firmware, making them vulnerable to exploitation.
To protect against IoT vulnerabilities, change default passwords, keep firmware updated and establish a thorough inventory of all connected devices. If a device isn’t required, isolate it from the network, which might mean removing batteries to be sure. Look out for IoT manufacturers that have gone out of business, as there probably won’t be any new security patches.
Password attacks involve attempting to guess or crack passwords to gain unauthorised access to systems or accounts. This can include brute-force attacks, dictionary attacks, or password spraying.
To protect against password attacks, enforce strong password policies, use multi-factor authentication, and educate employees about the importance of creating unique and complex passwords. If you use password managers, make sure that they too have superior access controls and complex authentication – see ‘Insider threats’ above, and follow the same procedures.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) attacks
As AI and ML technologies become smarter and easier to access, cyber criminals are finding ways to exploit them. Attacks on AI/ML models, data poisoning, and exploitation of AI-generated content can all pose risks.
Validate and thoroughly test AI/ML models, implement anomaly detection mechanisms, and regularly update training data to mitigate the risk of AI and ML attacks.
A security partner you can trust
Remember, cyber security is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring, adaptation, and improvement. By implementing a comprehensive cyber security strategy and staying informed about the latest threats, you can protect your business and its valuable assets from potential cyber attacks.
Here at Citation Cyber, we can check the security of your network with penetration testing, staff training, and offer certification services that gives you peace of mind to you, your team, your suppliers, and your clients. It’s never too late to level-up your security and protect your business – get in touch today to find out more.