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A Guide to Business Cybersecurity: Common Digital Attacks and Precautions
Businesses have increasingly been integrating technology within their workflows. In America, 94% of businesses use technology to increase efficiency.
Virtual tools allow them to complete tasks quickly, accurately, and with fewer resources. However, the processing and storage techniques employed are prone to cyberattacks that can corrupt a business’s electronic system, causing them to lose data, money, and reputation. For smooth and secure business operations, companies must implement cybersecurity solutions.
Cybersecurity entails securing your data, networks, programs, and systems against external and internal attacks. Here is a guide to help you understand various cybersecurity attacks and the protective measures against them.
Common Types of Cyberattacks Businesses Experience
To protect your system against cyberattacks, you must understand what they are, how they originate, and the harm they can do. Here are some common cyberattacks businesses experience.
Password Guessing Attacks
A password guessing attack entails hackers continually trying to guess an organization’s usernames and passwords. The sample data they use comes from previous breaches and are successful when employees keep the same weak or default passwords for multiple logins and command servers to remember them.
To avoid password guessing attackers, you must encourage employees to use unique and complex passwords with a mixture of letters and numbers. Advise them to type the password when logging into the company’s servers rather than having the system remember it. It’s also best to introduce a password-changing policy where everyone is required to reset their passwords after a set time period.
Organizations should also use password cracking, or the technique of retrieving passwords from encrypted data stored in or communicated by a computer, to help identify easily hackable passwords and test passwords to create stronger ones. There are many great open-source password cracking tools available to assist in the process.
Distributed Denial of Service Attacks
A distributed denial of service attack or DDoS is when a hacker paralyzes an organization’s system with a massive influx of fake activity, such as messages, requests, and web traffic. DDoS attacks are made through botnets which are malware-infected interconnected devices like computers, consoles, and servers. This attack weakens cybersecurity measures like firewalls, allowing hackers to access data.
Identifying DDoS attacks is challenging as their symptoms, like slower servers, are confused with regular high traffic. On closer inspection, the fake activity comes from one IP address and occurs at odd hours of the day. You can eliminate these attacks by creating a black hole to remove the fake traffic or limit the requests a server receives in a certain period.
Malware attacks refer to software hackers use to infiltrate private networks and access information. Some common malware attacks include the following:
- Keyloggers: These track the information users type with keyboards, such as passwords and social security numbers.
- Ransomware: This entails the encryption of vital data where the hacker forces users to pay a ransom to access it. If their demands are unmet, they threaten to delete it, sell it, or publish it on the dark web.
- Spyware: This monitors a user’s online activity, like web browsing, to gather personal information for hackers. It can also hack into webcams and turn them on to gather sensitive and identifiable information.
- Adware: Also known as spam, adware is relatively harmless. It decreases the performance of your computer but can download other harmful malware without your knowledge.
Malware enters networks through viruses, trojan horses, and worms. It spreads quickly in interconnected systems, but you can eliminate them through updated antivirus software and proper authentications.
In phishing attacks, hackers deceive employees through fake websites and emails to release private information, such as login credentials, credit card numbers, and social security information. They disguise themselves as trusted agencies like banks to obtain sensitive information. In a survey, 57% of organizations reported a successful phishing attack.
Spear phishing is a personalized phishing attack. In it, hackers target a specific organization or person and create emails using their names, making it harder to distinguish them. Authentication software and awareness programs can reduce the chances of falling victim to such attacks.
Cybersecurity Best Practices
Many businesses use outsourced IT support to implement cybersecurity practices. These third-party companies are skilled in managing and updating cybersecurity elements and guaranteeing data security. If you want to save money, consider applying cybersecurity yourself. Here are some essential cybersecurity practices businesses need to prevent most cyber attacks.
Use a Secure OS
It is no secret that the OS you choose is a key determinant of your security online. After all, your OS is the most critical software running on your computer - it manages its memory and processes, as well as all of its software and hardware. The general consensus among experts is that Linux is a highly secure OS - arguably the most secure OS by design. Some key factors that contribute to Linux being a more secure OS than Windows for businesses include:
- The Open-Source Security Advantage: Linux source code undergoes constant, thorough review by members of the vibrant, global open-source community and, as a result of this scrutiny, Linux security vulnerabilities are generally identified and eliminated very rapidly.
- A Superior User Privilege Model: Unlike Windows where “everyone is an admin”, Linux greatly restricts root access through a strict user privilege model. Because Linux users have low automatic access rights and require additional permissions to open attachments, access files, or adjust kernel options, it is harder to spread malware and rootkits on a Linux system.
- Built-In Kernel Security Defenses: The Linux kernel offers a selection of built-in security defenses including firewalls that use packet filters in the kernel, the UEFI Secure Boot firmware verification mechanism, the Linux Kernel Lockdown configuration option and the SELinux or AppArmor Mandatory Access Control (MAC) security enhancement systems. By enabling these features and configuring them to provide the highest level of security in a practice known as Linux kernel self-protection, admins can add an additional layer of security to their systems.
- Security through Diversity: There is a high level of diversity possible within Linux environments as a result of the many Linux distributions (distros) available and the different system architectures and components they feature. This diversity not only helps satisfy users’ individual requirements, it also helps protect against attacks by making it difficult for adversaries to efficiently craft exploits that can be used against a wide range of Linux systems.
- Highly Flexible & Configurable: There are vastly more configuration and control options available to Linux admins than to Windows users, many of which can be used to enhance security. For instance, Linux sysadmins have the ability to use SELinux or AppArmor to lock down their system with security policies offering granular access controls, providing a critical additional layer of security throughout a system.
Despite these key security benefits that Linux offers, it is crucial to remember Linux is not a “silver bullet” when it comes to security. The OS must be properly and securely configured and sysadmins must practice secure, responsible administration in order to prevent attacks.
Use Antivirus Software
Antivirus software scans, detects, and removes known malware from a computer. It runs in the background and occasionally pops up to notify you of a potential threat from a website, download link, or hardware. However, since new malware codes are constantly appearing, it is crucial to ensure your antivirus software is constantly updated.
Use a Firewall & a VPN
A firewall is a barrier between an organization’s network and the public internet. It constantly monitors and filters traffic into the personal network according to your organization’s security policy. In simpler words, firewalls ensure that attacks like DDoS do not enter the organization. Like Antivirus software, you must regularly update firewalls to prevent newer forms of threats.
Firewalls also perform NAT and VPN functions. NAT or Network Address Translation hides the IP addresses, allowing users to access the internet with more security and privacy. In contrast, VPN, or Virtual Private Network, creates a tunnel between the private and public networks, ensuring that the data packets shared remain secure.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an extra layer of protection after you enter your username and password. The second authentication check can be of three types:
- Something you know: This can be a personal PIN or question, such as the name of your first pet.
- Something you have: This includes verification through something users would often have, for example, they can gain access by entering a one-time passcode (OTP) sent to their phones.
- Something you are: This authentication includes fingerprints, eye scans, and voice prints.
Invest in Security AwarenessTraining Programs
You must train your employees regarding best cybersecurity practices and make them aware of common hacking and phishing techniques. As employees are the first line of defense against specific attacks, preparing them can protect your organization’s data and systems.
You should also instruct employees not to plug unknown devices into PCs, download unknown or unsafe files, open spam emails on the business’s computers, or enter their passwords on random websites to avoid malware from entering. Similarly, employees must use different computers for payment processing and web surfing to avoid identity theft incidents.
Your employees must have the right platform to report breaches in security, such as suspicious emails they receive or a sudden increase in server traffic. The IT department must promptly address such concerns to ensure cyber attacks do not occur or spread.
What to Do After a Cyberattack
Despite your best efforts, your system can still be susceptible to cyberattacks. As soon as the attack is identified, you must contain it. Disconnect your computers from the internet and isolate essential computers from the interconnected devices. As an extra precaution, consider changing the passwords of sensitive files.
You must then identify the attack’s source. The network connections at the time will help your IT department understand how the threat bypassed your security measures and what further improvement they require.
You must also analyze the information you lost and take measures accordingly. For example, if you lost payment processing credentials, you must report the incident to law enforcement agencies and change your passwords. Be transparent about the cyberattack with clients, as their data may also be compromised.
Final Thoughts on Business Cybersecurity
Data is essential for businesses, as it allows them to make informed decisions that increase profit margins, such as which marketing strategy to pursue. A greater reliance on technology also makes businesses susceptible to cyber attacks like the ones mentioned in this guide, and safeguarding data is complex.
You can independently apply cybersecurity best practices like choosing a secure OS like Linux and using antivirus software, firewalls, and two-factor authentication to protect your business’s sensitive data. Without the proper experience and knowledge, your network will remain susceptible to attacks. It’s best to hire trained IT professionals or consider outsourcing to a cybersecurity provider. They will ensure your security measures are constantly updated, and your employees are trained in following security protocols.