Cyber security is a nebulous concept for many business leaders. There are, it’s true, a complicated array of risks to data security, and, as a result, it can be easy to throw one’s hands up and ignore them all together. After all, you have a business to run, and that’s complicated enough. However, as countless companies making news headlines have found out, turning a blind eye to cyber security can be catastrophic for your business.
The good news is that common-sense cyber security measures don’t have to break the bank—or consume the attention of executives trying to grow their business. The first step, of course, is raising awareness.
And a little bit of awareness goes a long way. To help you understand the areas in which your data could be vulnerable, here’s a high-level overview of five common risks to data security today.
1. Unauthorized Access
Regardless of your business’s size, your data is valuable to cyber criminals. Thus, one of cyber security journalist Brian Krebs’s Immutable Truths About Data Breaches is: “If you connect it to the internet, someone will try to hack it.”
Believe it or not, it’s not unlikely that there are criminals trying to gain access to your data. Criminals try to “hack” your systems by finding vulnerabilities that they can exploit to gain unauthorized access. Sometimes, they exploit weak passwords for profiles giving access to key data. Other times, they exploit vulnerabilities built into the software you use, such as your computer’s operating system.
The key to preventing hackers from gaining unauthorized access, then, is to proactively maintain systems so that hackers don’t find the vulnerabilities that they need. If you make your systems difficult to infiltrate, hackers are more likely to move on to easier targets.
2. Malicious Software
Another tool of cyber criminals, malicious software is software you either didn’t intend to install, or software that has a purpose other than the one that’s advertised. Malicious software (often called ‘malware’) can serve a wide range of purposes, from spying on your online activity to disrupting your computer’s functions to stealing your data. In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in ransomware, a kind of malicious software that holds your computer’s data for ransom.
There are a number of ways that malicious software can make it onto your systems, many of which involve social engineering (see below). The best way to combat it, then, is to combine security tools such as business-grade antivirus software and monitoring tools with proactive network administration and employee training.
3. Social Engineering
Perhaps the hardest cyber attacks to prevent are those that are not so much hacking systems as people. Social engineering attacks take advantage of our natural instinct to trust in order to fraudulently gain access to data or achieve other nefarious ends.
One of the most common (though still effective) types of social engineering attack is email phishing. Phishing attacks are designed to get you to give up key information, such as an account password, or to download malware. But, of course, social engineering takes other forms as well, such as business email compromise attacks, where criminals trick unsuspecting employees into wiring funds to fraudulent accounts by posing as their bosses.
While technical safeguards can help mitigate social engineering attacks in some cases, the best defense against them is to continuously train employees on how to spot fraud before it’s too late.
4. Device Loss or Theft
While theft or loss of a laptop, tablet, or smartphone might not seem like a high-tech crime, it still poses grave risk to your company’s data security. If a company device that stores or gives access to sensitive data falls into the wrong hands, the results could be the same as if your systems were hacked.
The good news is that it’s fairly easy to protect against a data breach even in the event of device loss. Device encryption makes it extremely difficult for a would-be thief to access a device’s contents. And making sure that as much data as possible is stored on company controlled systems – like company servers or business-grade file sharing solutions – as opposed to locally on devices always helps prevent breaches.
5. Employee Negligence
While it’s never fun to think about, employees sometimes don’t take the care they should to protect company assets. Employees might use personal file sharing accounts to edit company data, thus taking data out of company control. They might send company data over unsecured email. They might download freeware that compromises your systems.
The good news is that a combination of IT best practices, including locked down user permissions and device management systems, and thoughtful company policies can minimize the amount of damage a negligent employee can cause.
Wondering About Your Organization’s Security?
If you’re wondering how vulnerable your organization is to these 5 risks, contact us today to set up a complimentary consultation to assess your business’s needs.