In today’s digital age, prioritizing cybersecurity is an essential responsibility whether you’re a business owner, employee, or everyday internet surfer. Because the internet is used for anything and everything, everyone is susceptible to threats. Are you really aware of all the possible threats and risks to your cybersecurity?
In 2022, phishing attacks increased by 61%, according to the “2022 State of Phishing” report from SlashNext. Even more recently, the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) reported that in the third quarter of 2022, a total of 3 million phishing attacks were observed—representing the worst quarter ever observed by the group.
Between phishing, ransomware, and data breaches, there’s a lot of information at risk for businesses, both big and small—information that can cost a pretty penny to get back after falling victim to cybercrime. More so, a recent report from Accenture predicted that the cost of data breaches will rise from $3 trillion annually to more than $5 trillion in 2024. These costs include the expenses of uncovering and responding to the breach, the cost of downtime and lost revenue, and the long-term damage to a business’s reputation and brand.
The bottom line? Cybercriminals want your valuable information, so you should invest your time in cybersecurity training and precautions to keep your professional and personal information safe and sound.
How exactly do you define cybersecurity? According to Gartner’s definition, “Cybersecurity is the practice of deploying people, policies, processes, and technologies to protect organizations, their critical systems, and sensitive information from digital attacks.” Cybersecurity measures are designed to combat threats against networked systems and applications, whether those threats stem from outside or inside of an organization. It is an essential practice to safeguard users’ information—including credit card information, social security numbers, telephone numbers, home addresses, and more.
As a business, the last thing you want to do is lose money, data, and customers to cybersecurity threats. Unfortunately, there is a wide range of reasons why hackers hack, and much of that motivation stems from monetary gains. Typically, hackers penetrate the system and then demand ransom from their victims. Other motives may entail a financial loss to the target, achieving a state’s military objective, damaging the target’s reputation, or political maneuvering.
As reported by Gartner, the best way to manage your cybersecurity is with the “CARE” model of outcome-driven metrics. CARE stands for consistency, adequacy, reasonableness, and effectiveness. All of these aspects of cybersecurity practice are equally as important and should be taken into account when building a cybersecurity plan.
Secure Your Digital Identity: Know the Risks
How safe is your digital identity? Cybercrime is a rampant issue as we become more and more reliant on technology for our workload, social connections, finances, and general communication with one another. Digital identity theft is quite messy to clean up when hackers use your digital identity to pose as you—leveraging your personal information for their personal gain. Luckily, there are several ways to prevent falling victim to cybercrime.
The most common types of cyber attacks include:
Distributed denial of service (DDoS)
This attack is used to restrict a user from accessing the resources by flooding the traffic that is used to access resources.
Phishing attacks occur when the hacker sends bait—usually in the form of an email—that encourages people to share their personal details. Phishing will hook the victim in once they click on a maliciously disguised link or open/download an attachment. Always remember, when in doubt, throw it out!
Additionally, spoofing occurs when a hacker poses as another person or organization, tricking the victim into thinking they have sent them a genuine email. Always remember to check the sender’s email address before clicking on their content or submitting information to them. If the email address or domain looks “phishy,” do not engage, and be sure to report the messages as spam.
Password attacks occur when someone cracks your password to access your “secure” apps to get sensitive info. There are also instances where passwords are compromised—meaning that an individual password was previously seen in a documented data breach where hackers released the stolen data publicly or sold it on the dark web.
Malware is a malicious program or software that disrupts or damages the computer. The most common types of malware include viruses and worms (which can replicate themselves), botnets (entire networks of compromised devices), and ransomware (which locks the victims’ data through encryption, demanding payment before decrypting and returning the data).
Train Your Employees: Phishing and Ransomware
Your team is only as strong as your weakest link, which is especially true regarding your cybersecurity practice. Your employees can be a very vulnerable target if you don’t train them to be prepared. They know the ends and outs of the business, maintain steady operations, and contribute to your company culture and reputation. Although it would be ideal to pour all your trust into your employees, you may be surprised by how many organizations face security issues that are caused by their employees. These issues mostly stem from user error but can lead to severe problems down the line if the hacker gains internal access to your company’s data. That is why cybersecurity training for employees is a necessary step in the onboarding process and periodically.
While cybersecurity awareness is the first preventative step to take, it is only effective if your employees willingly adopt and use cyber-secure practices—both professionally and personally. A huge pro to implementing cybersecurity training is that it can be completely customized to your organization’s needs. Typical cybersecurity awareness training is centered around raising employee awareness of potential threats to the company, which is especially important for those in remote work. Training may include email security, internet security, information-sharing procedures, compliance, or anti-social engineering training.
Since most phishing emails show subtle hints of their fishy nature, Exact IT has developed training tools to help maintain email security. The email phishing and analysis tool presents a first-hand look at the various ways cybercriminals reel in victims. Our phishing tool allows users to identify phishing attempts while avoiding contact altogether. Exact IT also offers a free email training course on ransomware attacks, so your team can get informed on how to stay protected.
Overall, these training programs allow employees to gauge a deeper understanding of cybersecurity while building skills required for defense. Note that training will only be effective if it is persistent and delivered regularly in short, concise sessions. The last thing you want to do is bore or overwhelm your employees because they will lose interest quickly. Try to incorporate humor into your cybersecurity training along with positive reinforcement to keep your employees engaged.
Cybersecurity Best Practices
There are five C’s of cybersecurity to remember, meaning that there are five focus areas that are of significant importance to all organizations. The five C’s of cybersecurity are change, compliance, cost, continuity, and coverage. For a functional cybersecurity plan, every one of these focus areas should be attended to regularly.
Cybersecurity is a never-ending practice that is constantly evolving. You can never be too safe when it comes to prevention and protection. Here are some best practices you can follow:
Incorporate Cybersecurity Into Your Work Culture
Encourage your employees to follow cybersecurity initiatives and reward them for doing so.
Create a regular process for reporting successfully prevented incidents, phishing emails, and vulnerabilities. Empower your employees to learn from their mistakes, this will reassure them that with their newfound knowledge, it shouldn’t happen again.
You could even establish an incentive program for your developers and reward them with bonuses or extra holidays if they pinpoint a bug or vulnerability.
Follow a Zero-Trust Security Model
As the saying goes, “better safe than sorry!” In short, a zero-trust model states that one should never trust and always verify before clicking, downloading, hitting send, etc. under this model, all devices are seen as untrusted by default, no matter their location or how they are connected, even if they had been verified previously. This model helps your organization prevent unauthorized access to any sensitive data—and is especially important if your organization relies on remote work.
Educate Your Employees Regularly
As mentioned above, it only takes one employee to make one error that can quickly snowball into a serious security issue. Schedule routine cybersecurity and compliance training that requires completion from everyone employed at the company. When things do start to head south, have a plan in place for when your company or employees is at risk for or has been attacked.
Create Strong Passwords
Strong passwords are key to adequate security measures. If any of your systems come with pre-set passwords (such as VoIP systems), it’s paramount to change them as soon as possible. Different organizations will have different standards for passwords, but generally speaking, ensure your passwords meet the following criteria:
- At least 12 characters
- A mix of numbers, letters (capital and lowercase), and symbols
- No obvious number/letter substitutions (ex. passw0rd)
- Stays away from typical dictionary words
Protect Sensitive Data with End-to-End Encryption
By encrypting your data, you can prevent unauthorized users from accessing the original data, allowing you to transfer files safely. End-to-end encryption means your data stays locked up tight despite cybersecurity threats.
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