Cyber-Security 101 for Business Owners

Running a business require skill with multiple things happening simultaneously that require your attention. One of those critical things is cyber-security – critical today to have your focus on.

In the digital world today, all businesses have a dependency on the Internet in one way or the other… For SMEs (Small Medium Enterprise) that uses the Internet exclusively as their sales channel the Internet is not only a source of opportunity but the lifeblood of the organisation. An enterprise has the ability, through the Internet, to operate 24×7 with digitally an enabled workforce bringing unprecedented business value.

Like any opportunity though, this also comes with a level of risk that must be mitigated and continuously governed, not just by the board but also by every member within the team. Some of these risks can have a seriously detrimental impact to the business, ranging from financial and data loss to downtime and reputational damage. It is therefore your duty ensuring your IT network is fully protected and secure to protect your business.

Statistics show that cybercrime is exponentially rising. This is mainly due to enhancements in technology enabling and giving access to inexpensive but sophisticated tools. Used by experienced and inexperienced cyber criminals alike, this is causing havoc across networks resulting in business downtime that costs the economy millions every year.

If your business is not trading for 100 hours, what is the financial and reputational impact? That could be the downtime caused by, for example, a ransomware attack – yes, that’s almost 5 days of no business, costly for any business!

Understanding the threat

Cyber threats take many forms and is an academic subject on it’s own. So where do you start?

First you need to understand the threat before you can take preventative action.

Definition: Cyber security or information technology security are the techniques of protecting computers, networks, programs and data from unauthorized access or attacks that are aimed for exploitation.

A good start is to understand the following cyber threats:

  • Malware
  • Worms
  • Trojans
  • IoT (Internet of Things)
  • Crypto-jacking

Malware

Definition:Malware (a portmanteau for malicious software) is any software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network.

During 2nd Q’18, the VPNFilter malware reportedly infected more than half a million small business routers and NAS devices and malware is still one of the top risks for SMEs. With the ability of data exfiltration back to the attackers, businesses are at risk of the loss of sensitive information such as usernames and passwords.

Potentially these attacks can remain hidden and undetected. Businesses can overcome these styles of attacks by employing an advanced threat prevention solution for their endpoints (i.e. user PCs). A layered approach with multiple detection techniques will give businesses full attack chain protection as well as reducing the complexity and costs associated with the deployment of multiple individual solutions.

Worms

Definition:A computer worm is a standalone malware computer program that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers. Often, it uses a computer network to spread itself, relying on security failures on the target computer to access it.

Recent attacks, including WannaCry and Trickbot, used worm functionality to spread malware. The worm approach tends to make more noise and can be detected faster, but it has the ability to affect a large number of victims very quickly.For businesses, this may mean your entire team can be impacted (spreading to every endpoint in the network) before the attack can be stopped.

Approximately 20% of UK businesses that had been infected with malware had to cease business operations immediately resulting in lost revenue.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Definition:The Internet of things (IoT) is the network of devices such as vehicles, and home appliances that contain electronics, software, actuators, and connectivity.

More devices are able to connect directly to the web, which has a number of benefits, including greater connectivity, meaning better data and analytics. However, various threats and business risks are lurking in the use of these devices, including data loss, data manipulation and unauthorised access to devices leading to access to the network, etc.

To mitigate this threat, devices should have strict authentication, limited access and heavily monitored device-to-device communications. Crucially, these devices will need to be encrypted – a responsibility that is likely to be driven by third-party security providers but should to be enforced by businesses as part of their cyber-security policies and standard operating procedures.

Cryptojacking

Definition:Cryptojacking is defined as the secret use of your computing device to mine cryptocurrency. Cryptojacking used to be confined to the victim unknowingly installing a program that secretly mines cryptocurrency.

With the introduction and rise in popularity and value of crypto currencies, cryptojacking emerged as a cyber-security threat. On the surface, cryptomining may not seem particularly malicious or damaging, however, the costs that it can incur are. If the cryptomining script gets into servers, it can send energy bills through the roof or, if you find it has reached your cloud servers, can hike up usage bills (the biggest commercial concern for IT operations utilising cloud computing). It can also pose a potential threat to your computer hardware from overloading CPUs.

A recent survey, 1 in 3 of all UK businesses were hit by cryptojacking with statistics rising.

Mitigating the risk 

With these few simple and easy steps you can make a good start in protecting your business:

  • Education: At the core of any cyber-security protection plan, there needs to be an education campaign for all in the business. They must understand the gravity of the threat posed – regular training sessions can help here. And this shouldn’t be viewed as a one-off box-ticking exercise then forgotten about. Having rolling, regularly updated training sessions will ensure that staff members are aware of the changing threats and how they can best be avoided.
  • Endpoint protection: Adopt a layered approach to cyber security and deploy endpoint protection that monitor processes in real-time and seek out suspicious patterns, enhancing threat hunting capabilities that eliminate threats (quarantine or delete), and reducing the downtime and impact of attacks.
  • Lead by example: Cyber-security awareness should come from the top down. The time is long gone where cyber-security has been the domain of IT teams. If you are a business stakeholder, you need to lead by example by promoting and practicing a security-first mindset.

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