Cybersecurity & A Post Pandemic World - What We Need To Know
- by Brittany Day
The recent Covid-19 pandemic affected many different industries. The lockdown caused many business networks to expand rapidly as more employees worked from home. This also accelerated digital transformation for many companies. While most IT departments can quickly make this transition, these changes exposed more businesses to cyber threats. So, how can businesses improve their cybersecurity to stay protected from these threats?
This article will cover why cybersecurity is so critical after the pandemic. We’ll also be looking at a few of the biggest threats and the entry points such as emails, etc. Finally, we’ll discuss a few measures to bolster your cyber security efforts, such as using a datacenter proxy, a strong email security gateway, and more. Keep reading how to discover how businesses can protect themselves from these threats.
Why Is Cybersecurity So Important After The Pandemic?
With more people working from home, businesses have started to see all the gaps in pre-covid cybersecurity. In 2021 cyber threat landscape became the most dangerous it’s ever been. 96% of businesses reported being targeted by email attacks in 2021. 75% of companies were victims of ransomware attacks, of which only 64% paid the ransom. From the number of companies that paid the ransom, only 40% recovered their data. These statistics are worrisome and the reason why cybersecurity efforts are so important after the pandemic.
Biggest Cybersecurity Threats
Before businesses can start protecting themselves, they have to know the most significant threats and prepare countermeasures for these dangers. Here are the biggest cybersecurity threats to be aware of.
Phishing attacks are the biggest threats facing businesses. These cyber-attacks account for 90% of breaches faced by organizations and account for over $12 billion in losses. These attacks occur through email. Someone would receive an email that pretends to be from a trusted source. These emails urge the user to either open a malicious link that can steal your data or infect your computer and network with viruses and other malware. Phishing emails can also contain attachments, such as PDFs that have malware. Finally, these emails can also request sensitive data such as passwords, login details, bank information, etc. The dangers of these phishing emails are that they look legitimate. Email security is paramount to combat these attacks, but it is very difficult since they use social engineering and target humans instead of technological vulnerabilities.
The Difference Between Phishing and Spear Phishing?
Spear phishing is a targeted attack aimed at a specific person, brand or business. These attacks are carefully researched and personalized to make them extremely convincing and dangerous. Phishing attacks take a more broad stroke approach that entails sending mass emails to bulk lists of recipients hoping that some will open the email.
Malware is the other major security threat that businesses have to look out for. Ransomware is a specific type of malware that encrypts the victim’s computer and systems. Once the attack has been implemented, the users no longer have access to their computer, files, programs, etc. The cybercriminal then holds this computer and all of its information hostage, and a ransom has to be paid before the user can get access to their computer. However, even after paying the ransom, many businesses still don’t get access back to their computers. Ransomware is often spread through a malicious download in an email. These are usually in the form of a PDF attachment, which, once opened, immediately infects the computer and network.
Malware is known as malicious software and can cause great havoc to your computer, systems and networks. These attacks can be viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, adware and ransomware. These attacks can be spread by downloading files from unknown sources, clicking a pop-up ad or downloading an email attachment.
Data breaches occur when information is stolen from your system by an unauthorized person. This information can include personal data such as addresses, contact information and social security information, or even financial information such as account details and logins.
How Can Businesses Protect Against Cyber Threats?
Businesses can take a number of steps to protect themselves from cyberthreats, including:
Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Cyber security awareness training is one of the first steps a company can take. Many of these attacks can be avoided if employees know the risks and learn to identify them. Since email security is critical as emails are one of the primary sources of spreading phishing attacks, ransomware and malware, employees need to learn how to spot these attacks before opening the emails.
Strong Emails Security Gateways
Another way to add a layer of security to emails is by using a strong email security gateway. The regular built-in email checker is not powerful enough and can often be fooled by these emails as the criminals get more advanced. In the same category, businesses should also invest in powerful antivirus and malware protection to add another layer of security in case something still gets through.
Activate Data Encryption Throughout
Data stored or sent online should be encrypted by turning on your network encryption, this converts your data into a secret code before it is sent over the internet. By encrypting your data, you are reducing the risk of theft or tampering. Your network encryption settings can be found on your router, or consider investing in a VPN (Virtual Private Network) if you’re using a public network.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security process that verifies your identity by requiring you to provide two or more pieces of your identity to access your account. For example, the system might require something you know, such as a password and something you have, such as a unique code sent to a mobile device. This tool provides an additional layer of security, making it harder for attackers to hack your devices and accounts.
Replace Passwords With Passphrases
Instead of a password, try a passphrase to safeguard your devices and networks that contain sensitive business data. Passphrases are similar to passwords, except they are a collection of words, and are simple to remember, but difficult for machines to guess. A secure passphrase should be long, complex, unpredictable and unique.
Implement Security Policies
A cybersecurity policy is used to help staff understand and maintain their responsibilities, as well as provide knowledge of what is acceptable when they use or share data, computers and devices, emails, and websites.
Consider Cyber Insurance
Because the cost of cleanup after a cyber-attack can involve more than just repairing databases, strengthening security or replacing laptops, businesses should consider buying cyber liability insurance. Like all insurance policies, it is very important you’re aware of what is covered and what will help your business recover from an attack.
Develop a Robust Backup Strategy
Backing up your business’s data and website frequently and regularly will help in the recovery process if you fall victim to a data breach or if your company gets targeted with a ransomware attack, as many businesses never get their data back even after paying the ransom. Backing up your most sensitive data is necessary, generally inexpensive and easy to do. Best practices involve using multiple methods to ensure the security of important files. A good system will typically include daily incremental back-ups to a portable device or cloud storage, end-of-week server back-ups, quarterly server back-ups and yearly server back-ups.
Implement Multi-Layered Email Security Protection
Multi-layered protection accompanied by expert, ongoing system monitoring, maintenance, and support work to analyze behavior, dynamic URL, and files to keep cyberattacks from exploiting vulnerabilities. This helps to bridge the gaps found in single-layered defenses such as Microsoft 365 and Workspace.
Data Center Proxy
A datacenter proxy is also a good option as it protects your users while browsing online. Datacenter proxies disguise your IP address, making it impossible for cybercriminals to track and collect your data. It also adds an extra layer of protection between your business network and the internet.
Limit Access to Sensitive Data
Another measure that can bolster your cybersecurity is limiting access to sensitive data. Make sure that only employees who have to work with specific data have access to it rather than every employee in the business. All of your employees don’t necessarily need access to all of your data. Limiting the access to certain data, means that you have less entry chances for cyber threats.
Keep Apps And OS Up To Date
Your apps and operating system (OS) have vulnerabilities that might get exploited by hackers and cyber criminals. The developers of these apps and OS are continually evaluating and improving their products to limit these vulnerabilities. It is critical that you frequently update all your apps and operating systems as soon as these patches become available to ensure that your system is fully protected against any newly discovered threats.
Use High Quality Anti-Malware Software
This might go without saying, but a good anti-malware and anti-virus program is essential if your business and employees conduct business online. Many businesses are under the impression that a free program is sufficient, or even that using multiple programs gives more coverage, but both of these thoughts are incorrect. When it comes to truly protecting your business from cyber attacks you need to invest in a strong and reliable program. Also, using multiple antivirus programs are counter-intuitive as the programs will work against each other, and miss threats. As such you only need to invest in one good antivirus program rather than many different ones, cheaper ones or even free ones.
Cybersecurity has never been more important, especially with the pandemic stretching business networks, exposing more vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit. Failure to implement the necessary changes in their security strategy can result in consequences ranging from reputation damage and significant downtime, to severe financial loss and even permanent closure. For example, in May of last year, the computer manufacturer Acer was attacked by the REvil hacker group, the same group responsible for an attack on London foreign exchange firm Travelex. The attack cost the business $50 million after hackers exploited a vulnerability in a server found in Microsoft Exchange to gain access to Acer’s files and leaked images of sensitive financial documents and spreadsheets.
Businesses need to recognize the possibility of an attack, such as ransomware or a data breach, and devise a clear cybersecurity plan to protect them from these threats. Based on their plan, they can implement measures such as using a datacenter proxy and multi-layered email security gateways to bolster their cybersecurity. 60% of small businesses go out of business within six months of getting hit with ransomware, proving it pays to be prepared in case your business is the target of an attack.
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