6 steps you can take to ensure your business is safe from cyber attacks

In today’s technological climate, cyber attacks and security threats have reached an unprecedented ubiquity. Cyber security statistics are sobering. For instance, the 2020 Cyberthreat Defense Report (CDR) found that in a single calendar year, 78% of Canadian companies have experienced a cyber attack of some kind. Over 1 in every 10 Canadian dollars allocated to IT departments are spent on security measures. And the average cost incurred by a successful cyber attack against a Canadian business is more than $400,000.

The nature and prevalence of cyber attacks should motivate every company to examine its digital security measures and put action plans in place for strengthening any weak areas.

Common Types of Cyber Attacks

A large variety of methods exist for infiltrating or compromising business systems or conducting cyber crimes. Here are a few of the most common forms of cyber attacks:

Malware refers to software that is often delivered to a machine via email or through clicking a malicious link. Malware often takes the form of a virus, worm, spyware, or ransomware that installs itself on a host computer and then performs some kind of action that could include damaging or corrupting data on the host’s machine, installing additional software, or monitoring or stealing information without the host knowing what is happening.

Phishing refers to deceiving someone by posing as a legitimate company or individual and prompting them to relinquish private or sensitive information. This is usually accomplished via email. Types of information that a phishing scam might target include credit card information, passwords or credentials to important accounts such as banks or email, and more.

A “Man-In-The-Middle Attack” occurs when a hacker (or malware software) intercepts or “eavesdrops” on data while it is being transferred between parties or locations. This might occur over unsecured internet networks, or because a vendor or second party isn’t operating with a secured system.

SQL Exploits are attacks that take place at the server level. They are accomplished by inserting destructive code into a server. This can sometimes be done by entering compromising code snippets into the search bar on your website, which overpowers your security measures and allows intrusive access to the server. SQL Exploits allow hackers to steal data from server-side databases.

Six Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Business

While it is impossible to completely mitigate the possibility of cyber attacks, there are several important defenses your business can employ that can dramatically reduce the possibility of a successful attack being waged against your company as well as lessen the ramifications if one does occur.

1. Follow appropriate guidelines regarding how much sensitive data is collected from customers, how long it is stored, and how to effectively destroy it. Best practice outlines recommended time durations for keeping various types of information. Be proactive in making sure your databases don’t keep old data that your business no longer needs. This lessens the cost of an attack should your system be compromised.

2. Require your employees to use secure passwords. A number of tools available today make it easy for employees to generate and remember secure passwords. Educate your employees on cyber security measures and provide them with a tool to make it easy for them to use secure, unique passwords for their work accounts and credentials.

3. Depending on your data volume and sensitivity, consider hiring a cyber security specialist. If your organization deals with extensive volumes of private data, it may be time to bring in a professional to ensure that your systems are sufficiently secured and who can maintain and upgrade those systems as needed.

4. Protect your data at every stage. Be aware of how it is collected, where it is stored, how it is transferred, what tools are used to process it, and what happens to it once it has been utilized. Make sure every step is secure.

5. Dealing with cyber attacks requires more than IT or technological security measures. Make sure you have company protocol in place that outlines all the steps that must be taken in the event of either unsuccessful or successful cyber attack attempts. These can include public relations protocol, IT department chain of command and communication measures, procedures in place outlining who and when various stakeholders should be notified, and more.

6. Ensure that your service providers and vendors also follow acceptable security practices. Too often a company spends ample time and resources developing and fortifying their own security measures, only to experience a cyber attack and data breach because vendors or third-party entities they worked with hadn’t maintained their own adequate security. Avoid this scenario by vetting any vendors that gain access to your business’s information, networks, or systems and requiring adequate security measures before working with them.

By employing a bit of cyber security diligence and best practice within your business, you can greatly decrease the likelihood of an expensive and damaging cyber attack that compromises your company and your customers.