Though a cyberattack could happen at any moment, a lot of organizations are ill-prepared and don’t have a plan set up to deal with the aftermath of such an occurrence. Even a quarter of IT professionals aren’t exactly confident in their organization’s ability to remediate when or if a security breach happens, and it appears this is mainly due to a lack of awareness about the need for a plan in the first place.
Even if your organization does have a solid plan in place, a cyberattack could cause a heap of damage that can extend to your clients. Now imagine what sort of experience your company could have without a plan set up. Ideally, your employees should be ready to take the proper course of action immediately after a security breach has occurred, as to not only completely remedy the situation, but also safeguard any data or devices that have yet to be accessed by the hacker.
Sometimes a company feels they are already well prepared for a cyberattack (with or without an incident response plan on board), but unless the topic of internet security is regularly spoken about and taught within the workplace itself, there may be a few things they could improve on. To understand the importance of all of this, we must consider what the true cost of a cyberattack is, or could be, for a company and understand why businesses might be targeted. It’s also crucial to learn about practical tips organizations can use to protect themselves.
Why Companies Might Be Targeted
There are a variety of reasons why a hacker might target a company in particular, but in most cases, there’s likely a potential gain in sight for the hacker. Perhaps they know you have a lot of customer data on file, including credit card numbers and other banking details, they can use to commit identity theft. Sometimes there is information they can sell online to others who are willing to pay hackers to provide them what they’re looking for.
Since businesses often have a large amount of personal information about both their employees and clients, they might be a more favorable target to certain hackers. Security is sometimes lacking within certain organizations too, especially when they’re smaller, or were recently started. Your company may also be vulnerable to cyberattacks when an employee leaves and passwords aren’t updated, or if your company is promoting anything that could be viewed as controversial to some people.
Overall, companies tend to have a lot more to offer a hacker than the average internet user, so that fact alone may be enough to tempt a hacker into targeting them in particular.
Ways Hackers Access Data
Now that you’re aware of a few possible motives that could be the driving factor behind a hacker’s decision to target a company, it’s important to know how they access the data. By knowing how they can attack your company, you’ll be able to address potential vulnerabilities within your system better and prevent them from accessing your data.
Perhaps one of the most common ways hackers access a company’s data is through “spear phishing,” which is presented as an email or another type of message that contains a hyperlink or file that ultimately injects malware onto the device it was opened on. The malware can then be used as a way for the hacker to access (and even control) the device and sometimes every other device on the same network as well.
Though it’s not technically hacking, hackers or others with ill intent can obtain passwords to access company accounts. Sometimes employees or former employees might leak passwords; they could be guessed or an employee could be tricked into handing over details that can be used to access accounts (such as the answers to security questions linked to the accounts).
Another way hackers can access a company’s data is by hacking into their devices through an unsecured, or public, network. If your business uses public WiFi or doesn’t properly secure their internet connection, a hacker can access it just by being in the range of the signal. Any passerby, even those outside of the building, could then victimize your company through this method.
There are a variety of other methods hackers can use to access data as well, and the ones mentioned above are unfortunately just a preview of the possibilities.
The True Cost
So why exactly do companies, both big and small, need to worry about a cyberattack? The answer is simple. Any data you have stored is a reflection of your company’s inner workings, and a security breach can be viewed by potential and current customers as just the same.
If your customers’ personal information gets leaked because of a data breach, your company’s reputation can quickly plummet, and there’s no guarantee your customers will be very forgiving. A hacker could use their information to commit identity theft or access their accounts even, stirring up a lot of trouble for those who invested in your products or services.
From the customer’s perspective, legal action against your company may seem appropriate, and they may decide to use your competitor for any future business. Overall, a cyberattack could cost both you and your clients a lot of money in the long run, so it’s crucial you make internet security a top priority within your organization.
The Potential Solution
Besides educating your employees about cybersecurity and implementing a strict policy regarding safer internet use or the handling of data, you must equip your devices with the proper software and provide your staff with the tools they need to prevent a cyberattack. All of the internet-enabled devices associated with your company should have basic security software at the very least. An anti-virus and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) are two that are great to start out with.
An anti-virus will scan and prevent malware on different platforms, as well as secure your email clients and provide protection for your servers. As a company, you won’t be able to get by with a free anti-virus, but one specifically for businesses won’t usually cost more than $50 per year. As a bonus, most anti-viruses designed for company use offer extra features that can come in handy.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is important because it can help you protect your devices from hackers who take advantage of unsecured internet connections (which many businesses use if they have a storefront). It can also provide some anonymity online since it will mask IP addresses. VPNs work by simply routing internet traffic through an encrypted remote server and cost less than $15 per month on average.
VPN service may be even more important for use on personal devices, since managers and CEOs sometimes store some company data on their own devices and may be more likely to forego good cybersecurity habits while on the go with their personal phones, tablets, laptops, etc.
Most importantly, be sure all of your employees are up to date with the latest cybersecurity news and are also trained on the topic of internet safety on a regular basis. And don’t forget to create an incident response plan for your company if you do not already have one! The true cost of a cyberattack can be a heavy burden for any organization, so ensure you’re making internet security a top priority for your company.
Do you have any tips for organizations who are concerned about hackers and data breaches? Please share them in the comments.
About the Author: Cassie is an internet security expert who stays up to date on ways she can help her fellow internet users, no matter if they are new to the web or have been a longtime user of the internet. With an interest in business, she especially focuses on providing practical suggestions companies could put to use to protect their data and maintain client relationships.