More and more people join the internet every day as technology becomes cheaper and broadband access more ubiquitous. By the beginning of 2021, as many as 4.66 billion existed globally. That’s 59.5% of the entire population of the world linked via a backbone of computers and servers. While such access provides many benefits to users and businesses using digital transformation to better serve customers, it also represents serious cybersecurity threats to anyone on these networks. Protecting your business from these threats gets harder every year as hackers and cybercriminals gain more advanced skills and the increased number of nodes introduces additional vulnerabilities.
With COVID-19 pushing employees from all sectors into either remote working or hybrid situations (a transformation that likely exists far into the future), digital security is an increasing concern for large corporations as well as small and medium-sized businesses. According to the FBI, cyberattacks increased by 400% in the first few months of the pandemic.
According to IBM’s annual Cost of Data Breaches Report in 2021, the average cost of a data breach is $4.24 million. While that number may sound terrifying, the truth is that the more you know about what causes the majority of cybersecurity threats, the easier it becomes to prevent and solve cybersecurity threats. Read on to learn how you can protect your business from cybersecurity threats.
Top 12 Cybersecurity Threats
1. Digital ignorance is not bliss
When it comes to the digital world, ignorance is not bliss.
While the origins of cybercrime are malicious, the access points through which they enter are usually not. This is because the entry point can often come from employees working outside the usual safety of your business’s protection or who are often unaware of the access they provide to cybercriminals through their normal processes.
If you want to reduce your risk, cybersecurity risk training and education are essential, especially since employee preferences for remote work seem unlikely to die out any time soon. Below, we discuss a few of the specific cybersecurity threats you face due to innocent employee actions. By training employees about these threats and enforcing rules to curb the threat, you make your business more resilient.
2. Watch out for IP fraud
With increasing concerns about online privacy, many internet users take active steps to prevent various tracking and monitoring software and maintain some semblance of anonymity. VPNs, the TOR Network, and proxy servers are all popular ways for users to hide their IP addresses to make their systems less available to hackers. For instance, an innocent check of an employee’s email from a coffee shop opens up their computer and its connections to others sharing the free WIFI network.
While this is a fair concern for individual users, it does present a minor problem in terms of IP fraud. Cyber attackers make use of these and other spoofing techniques to obscure their IP addresses, making them difficult to spot, control, or apprehend. Luckily, there is software that can negate the worst threats from IP fraud. Usually, they work by using IP Fraud score technology to determine whether or not an incoming IP address is suspicious or not.
Ransomware attacks are one of the more concerning cybersecurity threats for modern business. Ransomware involves installing a piece of code that encrypts all the organization’s files. Once the business pays a ransom (often in untraceable bitcoin) the business receives an encryption key to unlock its data. According to a leading cybersecurity firm, by 2031, ransomware will cost its victims as much as $265 billion.
At its most basic level, ransomware may lock a single device or a small network. On a larger level, this cybersecurity threat goes as far as locking down an entire city’s data infrastructure.
Despite being one of the more well-known forms of cybersecurity threats, phishing is still one of the most prevalent threats out there today.
For the uninitiated, phishing is an email-based attack that tricks someone into giving away confidential information or clicking on a dodgy link that infects their computer. Once the criminal has access to your computer or has your passwords, they inflict various types of harm from copying confidential emails, as happened in the Clinton campaign in 2016 to draining your bank account. While it may sound like an obvious that everyone should know to avoid, it’s still obviously incredibly common. And the pandemic only exacerbated the incidence of phishing.
An APWG report that came out at the end of 2020 reported that incidents of phishing doubled by the end of 2020, buoyed by the pandemic as employees increasingly worked from home.
5. Over-reliance on the Cloud
Cloud computing is a method of delivering computing services over the internet, including servers, storage, networks, software, and analytic data. Cloud computing has the ability to reduce costs, gain agility, and improve cloud security. Cloud computing and storage saw massive growth since Covid-19 forced various brick-and-mortar businesses to adopt digital processes and distributed workforces.
While there are several benefits to using cloud computing, the variety of risks you open your business up to make it well worth a bit of hesitancy. These include:
- Misconfigured Cloud Services
- Data loss that occurs as a result of poor migration and lack of backups
- API Vulnerabilities
- Malware attacks
- Insufficient access management controls
- Attacks from cybercrime & cloud computing-focused attackers
Mining for cryptocurrency requires immense amounts of energy, as well as computer processing power. Cryptojacking is an attempt to piggyback on the processing power of other computers without permission to mine without the expense of equipment investment.
In a business context, this becomes a serious issue when your systems are cryptojacked causing serious performance issues, costly downtime, and higher utility costs. The slower your systems, the slower your employees perform and the less productive your enterprise is as a whole. That may also mean losing customers who find your slow response unacceptable.
Since it’s often not as invasive or abrasive as other cybersecurity threats, cryptojacking is increasingly popular for cybercriminals and is one to keep in mind if you run a computer-based enterprise. At universities all over the country, select students abuse their access to computing power to mine currency, creating a cost to the university and restricting legitimate uses of the system for other students and faculty.
7. Poor knowledge of data privacy law
Data privacy is a major talking point in the online world. Controversies like the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the recent Facebook data breach made data privacy an increasing concern. Businesses face challenges when trying to keep up with changing and shifting privacy laws resulting from prior breaches and incur lobbying expenses to avoid future legislation that might make their business operations more challenging. Domestic and international laws can often differ slightly and the fines associated with breaches represent a serious cost to businesses.
Understanding the CPRA (The California Privacy Rights Act) of 2020 and its difference from the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, for example, is essential for working in the online realm. Data privacy laws and protection against violations have a major effect on your company as a whole and can impact your business financially as a result of fines or damage to your reputation in the public eye.
8. Social engineering
Social engineering attacks exploit social interactions to gain access to valuable data. It’s a malicious, thought-out, and planned cyber threat that relies on deception to take advantage of human error. This is incredibly dangerous since cybersecurity systems struggle to prevent a social engineering attack because the attacker is let into the system by an internal, human target.
Here are a few basic tips to prevent social engineering from damaging your business:
- Don’t open emails and attachments from suspicious sources
- Use multi-factor authentication
- Be wary of tempting offers
- Keep your antivirus/antimalware software updated
Passwords are a cornerstone of digital security since computers became a thing. They keep accounts secure and help us maintain our privacy but they can, ironically, also make it easy for hackers to gain access. Especially if you use one password for everything, you write down passwords somewhere that’s not protected, or if those passwords are linked to publicly available information.
Here are some tips for good password habits:
- Use a unique password for every account
- Use a strong password
- Avoid obvious passwords like your birthday, social security number, or other sensitive information
- Limit the number of personal details you share on social media sites. The less information you put out there, the more difficult it is to guess
- Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols
- Use multi-factor authentication
Incorporating passwordless multi-factor authentication, which combines various authentication methods like biometrics, security keys, and device recognition, significantly strengthens security by removing the reliance solely on passwords. Additionally, implementing different types of CAPTCHA further enhances the security of passwordless multi-factor authentication by validating human users and thwarting automated bot attacks, ensuring a more robust authentication process.
10. Mobile as a target
There are currently 4.28 billion unique mobile internet users worldwide, representing around 54.6% of the global population. This is a trend that’s increasing exponentially. As technology becomes more intertwined and digital convergence increases, employers need to concern themselves with the security of people’s mobile devices. The main bonus of digital convergence is the convenience of having everything, all together, wherever. As convenient as this is, it poses severe cyber security risks. If people use their own devices for work-related tasks, it exposes them and their work to increased danger.
Mobile devices for employees that deal with sensitive information and do not make use of a separate work phone should be password-protected, encrypted, or make use of biometric authentication in the event of the device being lost or stolen.
11. Using public Wifi
From New York to Tel Aviv and Barcelona and Osaka, an increasing number of cities provide free access to WiFi, and the world is undergoing a WiFi revolution. When you combine this with the way various businesses investigate WiFi as a necessity rather than an option and the effects of COVID-19 on remote work, public WIFI never posed a more serious concern for employers.
Whether your employees do work-related tasks in a coffee shop or on the train on the way home, this access to public WiFi is a definite concern when it comes to cyber security. Fake networks or even unsecured real networks can leave users vulnerable to attackers of all sorts. Cybercriminals can then exploit these vulnerabilities to access confidential work-based information and lead to catastrophic data breaches.
Education and awareness of the dangers of public WiFi are essential for keeping people safe when they use public Wifi, whether that’s in their local coffee shop or even “safe” spaces like libraries or parks.
12. Man in the middle attacks
Man-in-the-middle attacks are pretty much what it sounds like. They occur when an attacker intercepts a two-party communication or transaction, quite literally, putting themselves in the middle of the communication. From there, attackers can steal or alter data by interrupting traffic. Man-in-the-middle attacks enable eavesdropping between people, clients, and servers. This may include HTTPS connections to websites, other SSL/TLS connections, Wi-Fi network connections, and more.
This type of attack usually exploits security vulnerabilities in a network, such as an unsecured public WiFi, to insert criminals between a visitor’s device and the network. Man-in-the-middle attacks are one of the most difficult to identify, as their subtle involvement is often only visible after it’s too late.
With so many different threats growing and developing every day, one of your strongest safeguards against attack is information. The more aware you and your team are about what these threats are and how they appear on your system, the better equipped your company is to prevent, recognize, identify, isolate and control damage if it occurs.
Training and education, when combined with great tools go a long way to taking on cybersecurity threats and the damages they can cause.
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