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IT Compliance

6 Common Cybersecurity Risks That Could Impact Your Business

Patrick Sullivan

data security

No business is safe from cybersecurity threats, whether you’re an entrepreneur just getting started or an established organization with years of experience under your belt. Today’s hackers are savvier than ever, and most businesses these days store large volumes of sensitive information online. Even a minor cyber attack can severely disrupt your operations, leading to financial losses and damage to your reputation.

Because of this, it’s extremely important for every organization to be aware of common types of cyber attacks and have a risk management strategy in place to prevent them. Here are some of the top cybersecurity threats out there and ways to prevent them in your organization.

Key Points

  • Cyber attacks are at an all-time high, and everyone from small businesses to big corporations should have a security strategy in place.
  • Ransomware and social engineering are two of the most common external threats to organizations right now.
  • Internal vulnerabilities in your cloud systems, IoT devices, and general security practices are also very dangerous and should be addressed accordingly.
  • Your vendors and other third-party partners also pose a direct security risk to you.

Ransomware

One of the biggest cybersecurity threats to watch for right now is ransomware. This is a type of malicious software that accesses secure systems or data on your computer, locks and encrypts them, and then demands a monetary ransom for their release. Ransomware compromises your most sensitive data, and it can also be financially devastating.

Unfortunately, ransomware attacks have been on the rise in recent years. No business is safe—even multinational corporations have experienced ransomware attacks. In 2022, major companies like Yum! Brands and Ferrari were targeted by cybercriminals with ransomware. Government entities have also become popular targets for ransomware attacks. For example, the UK’s National Health Service experienced ransomware attacks in 2022 and 2017.

There are a variety of steps your organization should take to prevent ransomware attacks from happening. Your systems should be properly configured with secure endpoints, firewalls, and antivirus software so that hackers cannot gain access to your systems.

As with other malware attacks, ransomware often starts as an unauthorized download on your computer. Your entire team should also only click on links and open emails from trustworthy sources to prevent this from happening. When downloading new software programs for your device, be sure to check and make sure they are from a reputable source.

Social Engineering

Social engineering and phishing attacks have been happening since the 1990s, but they are still major security threats today. The general public is much more aware of phishing attacks now than they were 20 years ago, but hackers have gotten savvier with their social engineering strategies.

Social engineering happens when a hacker manipulates their target into sharing sensitive information or otherwise compromising their digital security in some way. The most common form of social engineering is phishing. This is when a hacker sends an email, text message, or social media message posing as a trusted contact in order to gain access to secure information, such as a password or social security number.

Other forms of social engineering include whaling, baiting, and honey trapping. Whaling is similar to phishing, but targets high-level business executives or government officials. Baiting promises “free” rewards in exchange for valuable personal information, while honey trappers pretend to be romantically interested in their targets in order to gain their trust. These are just a few of the many types of social engineering, and we’re likely to see these practices become even more common as hackers find new vulnerabilities to exploit.

According to a Verizon study, 20 percent of cyberattacks in 2022 used some form of social engineering. Because social engineering is so common, you’ll need to train your entire team to spot and avoid phishing emails.

These emails or messages look like they come from services that you use, like Google or Amazon, but once you look harder at the email address or subject line, you’ll notice that something is off. Phishing messages and other social engineering attacks often have poor spelling and grammar. These scams may also start with an offer that seems too good to be true.

Training your team to spot and avoid these messages goes a long way toward keeping your organization safe. Spam filters and anti-virus programs can also identify and eliminate some social engineering attacks. However, particularly creative ones are still likely to slip through the cracks, so you’ll need to remain vigilant.

Cloud Vulnerabilities

Organizations around the world have switched to cloud-based apps and networks over the past few years, and for good reason. Cloud services reduce the need for on-premise servers and make remote work easier. With cloud technology, workers can access the software they need with just an internet connection, and may even be able to work using their smartphones.

While cloud services are very convenient, they also come with unique security risks. If your cloud provider experiences any security breaches, your data could be compromised. This is why it is so important to choose providers that take cloud security seriously. They should be transparent about their security measures and work with you to ensure that your servers are properly configured.

Additionally, users access cloud services from a variety of different devices and network connections, some of which are more secure than others. If a user connects to the cloud via an unsecured wi-fi network, a malicious actor on the same network could access your systems and access sensitive data.

Approximately 80 percent of organizations experienced a cloud-related security incident in 2022, and the majority of security professionals believe that the risk of cloud-based data breaches will only continue to increase in 2023.

Encrypting the data you store in the cloud adds an extra layer of protection to minimize cloud vulnerabilities. You’ll also want to limit the number of people who can access your systems in order to further minimize risk.

IoT Devices

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a network of physical objects that communicate via the internet. Popular examples of IoT devices include smart thermostats, security monitors, and voice-controlled home assistants, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo.

IoT devices have become particularly popular among homeowners, but they’re often used in commercial settings as well. While these devices are very convenient and provide very helpful services, they are also vulnerable to many different types of cyber attacks. Although your IoT devices might not contain sensitive data on their own, they can serve as an access point for the rest of your network.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks often happen via IoT devices that are connected via the cloud. In a DDoS attack, hackers and bots will flood your system with traffic, making it completely inaccessible to normal users. Many hackers will use DDoS attacks as a distraction while they conduct a data breach.

IoT devices are also vulnerable to other types of attacks, such as SQL injections, malware, man-in-the-middle attacks, and more. This is because IoT devices are not usually built with security in mind and are not updated regularly to account for new security risks.

Because these attacks are so easy to conduct using IoT devices, it’s very important to take cloud security measures with every single device. Additionally, you should update your IoT devices on a regular basis and ensure they’re protected with the same firewalls and other security measures that you use for computers.

Finally, it’s important to use strong passwords for your IoT devices and limit the number of people who can access them. Many people set very weak passwords for their IoT devices for the sake of convenience, putting them at risk. Setting complex passwords and using two-factor authentication will help prevent hackers from hijacking your smart systems.

The global IoT market is rapidly expanding. In the coming years, we can expect to see more sophisticated IoT devices with better security, especially in fields like healthcare that deal with large volumes of sensitive data. Every time your organization implements a new IoT device, take the time to properly configure it for maximum security, regardless of what type of device it is or what it does.

Third-Party Exposure

Your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum—chances are, you work with vendors and service partners to get things done. While working with third parties is often essential for success, it also poses an added security risk. If one of your partners experiences a security breach, there’s a chance that you could experience a security breach as well.

The rise of SaaS programs has made it easier than ever to outsource your operations using the internet. While this is very effective for streamlining your operations, it also puts your organization at higher risk for a data breach. The number of organizations that have experienced a third-party security incident has risen from 21 percent in 2021 to 45 percent in 2022.

Because of this, you’ll need to make sure that partners throughout your entire supply chain take security just as seriously as you do. Before committing to a working relationship with a third-party vendor, conduct a comprehensive audit of their security practices to make sure they’re up to snuff. This is particularly important if you’re in an industry with strict compliance standards, such as healthcare, finance, or defense.

Conducting an audit ahead of time gives everyone the chance to get on the same page regarding cybersecurity. If you decide to move forward with a partnership, both parties should sign a contract specifying what security measures they will take and how they will respond in the event of a security breach.

You’ll also want to schedule regular security check-ins with your business partners. The cybersecurity landscape is constantly changing as new threats emerge. Work with your partners to update your systems or implement new security measures as needed. This will reduce confusion and increase transparency for a better work experience.

Limiting third-party access to your systems is also key to protecting sensitive financial and personal data. A least-privileged data access model gives your vendors only the access they need to do their jobs and helps to prevent external cybersecurity threats.

Lacking Cybersecurity Practices

Cybercrime often happens simply because the target entity didn’t have appropriate security measures in place. You can never be too careful when it comes to your information security strategy, especially since the risk of a data breach is so high right now.

When you’re managing busy day-to-day operations, it’s easy for cybersecurity to fall by the wayside. However, little things like using weak passwords, failing to update your software, and working on unsecured wi-fi networks all make you more of a target for cyber attacks.

Many small business owners don’t know where to start when it comes to cybersecurity. In fact, 47% of small businesses say they have no understanding of how to protect themselves from cybercrime. It’s understandable—cybersecurity can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a tech background. However, taking steps to protect your organization now will save you time, money, and stress later on.

Start by implementing basic security practices for your entire team, such as scheduling regular system updates and only working from secure networks. You may also want to outsource to a professional using managed IT services. This is a great option if you don’t have the budget for an in-house IT expert but need extra security support.

Managed IT services will help you implement stronger cybersecurity practices to protect your data. They are also highly scalable, so you’ll be able to adjust the services you’re using as your organization grows. A managed IT team will be able to assess your systems and reconfigure them as needed to support better security practices. They will also monitor your systems for threats so you can respond accordingly and prevent data loss.