November 20, 2019
Businesses are losing valuable time, suffering damage to their reputations, and spending millions of dollars on recovery efforts after their networks—which often store critical and private data—are attacked by hackers. The Department of Homeland Security states that these incidents are continuing to grow and that cyberattacks are one of the most serious economic and national security threats in the United States.
Companies that regularly collect credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, customer or patient data, and other sensitive information are especially at risk of being targeted by cybercriminals who use phishing, malware, or ransomware to breach an organization’s network.
While many business managers are not familiar with the “IT side” of their organization, they should still have a thorough understanding of what protection measures are in place for their networks. Hackers can use stolen records for identity theft and blackmail purposes, as well as sell them on the dark web.
To help prevent this from happening, make sure that your network has been tested for vulnerabilities, computers have been upgraded, and software patches are up to date. As hackers become more sophisticated, the days of relying solely on firewalls and antivirus software are over.
A cybersecurity professional can help you assess the current state of your network’s protection and determine a plan to close the “open windows and doors” that are most vulnerable to an attack. This type of audit provides a complete understanding of how your organization’s data is stored and how it’s protected—even for remote employees. Remote employees who connect to the corporate network should have protective measures in place on their devices to prevent the introduction of malware via a VPN connection. It’s important that they sit behind firewalls, have proper antivirus software, and are being patched. Vulnerabilities must be managed.
Training everyone who has access to your company’s network is a critical step that can significantly mitigate the risks of human error, including what is known as “hacking the human.” As advancements are made in network security, cybercriminals are instead targeting the people using the networks in an attempt to force them to make a mistake.
“Hacking the human” refers to hackers sending targeted emails or attachments to employees to try to trick them into opening them. Phishing efforts like these can unleash a ransomware attack that can impact the entire network.
Your network will be far more secure if employees are trained to be wary of these emails. Cybercriminals will often change just a single letter or number (i.e., “0” for “O” or “1” for “l”) in an otherwise familiar sequence or email address to avoid detection by your employees. If these emails are opened, they can immediately trigger ransomware that encrypts the entire network’s data, making it inaccessible unless you agree to pay the hacker. This type of hacking should immediately be reported to law enforcement.
Cybersecurity professionals can conduct training to ensure that all employees are aware of these traps and know the signs to look for when browsing emails. Signs of phishing scams often include the improper use of our language, grammatical mistakes, requests for password resets, fake gift cards, fake shipping notifications, links to malicious websites, generic greetings in the body of the email, an incorrect reply-to address, and more.
Businesses of all sizes and in all industries are at risk for cyberattacks. It should now be standard business practice for executives and managers to understand these threats and how to proactively prevent them. While the effects of a cyberattack can be devastating and long-lasting for a company, taking precautions and training employees can reduce the chance of this happening to your business.