According to Forbes.com, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day at our current pace. And that mind-boggling rate will get even more prominent as the Internet of Things develops further. You do not have to own a multi-national corporation to be an enticing target for cyber-crime. 50% of small business owners — as stated in a Nationwide Small Business Indicator survey — experience at least one form of cyber-attack over a period of 1 year.
It is easy for you to get overwhelmed with all the cybersecurity jargon, tools, and tips thrown around these days. However, from experience, the vulnerabilities are the same across the board. Unfortunately, the vast majority of startups have no measures and strategies in place to address them.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things deals with the ever-growing needs of networking on things, on physical objects connected to the IP (Internet Protocol) address of the Internet. Communication will take place between objects as well as internet-enabled systems & devices.
The emergence of new technologies in today’s era of the Internet comes with new opportunities, along with new security risks, since certain aspects of network security design need fixing.
However, to stay abreast of the risks they represent, you need first to understand the IoT systems deployed in running your business. Once this is done, as part of cybersecurity measures and strategies, you can now shift your attention to trying to identify the known security loopholes in your IoT systems.
Ensure that all the flaws with the potential to infiltrate your systems are mitigated with the aid of firewalls and safeguarded, just like other parts of the network.
Cybersecurity Against Insiders
This measure could be somewhat counter-intuitive; however, you need to realize that your employees are the most significant cybersecurity threat your startup could face. This assertion equally applies to businesses of every size.
Any member of your staff can inadvertently cause a data leak or breach, and it’s almost impossible to watch everyone. However, do consider paying particular attention to privileged employees, to terminated staff and third parties.
Since privileged users are often your most trusted employees, they’ll typically have control over access to your core infrastructure as well as data. Hence, you’ll want to keep close tabs on specific privileged users within your establishment and ensure that you put a stop to their access to critical information when they quit, even if they do so in good terms.
It would help if you also treat 3rd-party vendors and subcontractors as a possible security risk. Avoid giving IT personnel admin permission to access your critical systems and data. Moreover, if this is unavoidable, don’t forget to create new passwords when they’re through with the job.
A good measure you can take in defending your startup against insider threat is to put some restrictions on the number of employees with privileges to access your key software and systems. Also, when your employees leave, delete their accounts.
One of the most common cyber-attacks you need to be mindful of is a data breach. Data breaches happen when a cybercriminal succeeds in stealing the data of your enterprise by gaining access to your database(s). Such stolen personal & financial info goes on sale in the black market for identity theft and fraudulent deals.
Small businesses that are prime targets for such attacks are businesses with websites or mobile applications gathering customer information through online support, eCommerce, or CRM.
You may feel big organizations that have recorded a data breach (the likes of Dropbox, Sony, and LinkedIn) were able to fix the errors. These errors lead to data breaches in the first place, and as such, you do not take such attacks seriously. Here’s one difference: these significant corporations have vast resources and stable relationships to handle such fallouts.
Loss of customer trust and damaged reputations can prove fatal to small businesses. So, consider the revelation that 60% of startups, according to the US National Cyber Security Alliance, fold up within six months in the wake of such data breaches.
DDoS Cybersecurity Attacks
DDoS, also called Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks render a server or a site inaccessible by through overwhelming traffic on a network. An hour of downtime from a DDoS attack can cause as much as $20,000 in losses for a third of organizations. For websites that handle large transactions, like eCommerce services, this figure can go up as high as $100,000 for each hour of downtime.
Startups often have to cope with the downtime and absorb losses in sales and productivity. Even if they aren’t direct targets, some small businesses could still experience some issues when DDoS attacks affect larger infrastructure providers.
In 2016, thousands of websites and services were severely affected when Dyn, a DNS provider, suffered a massive DDoS attack.
Ransomware & Malware
According to cybersecurity experts, ransomware is among the leading cybersecurity threats that businesses face nowadays. Ransomware is a particular kind of malware (or malicious software). It infects computers and mobile phones when connected to a vulnerable network.
This ransomware carries out file encryption on the breached computer. Users can’t gain access to their data unless they obtain a decryption key that they can access only after making ransom payment to the criminals behind the attack. Even after paying this ransom, it’s still not certain that the cybercriminals will honor the payment.
The majority of ransomware attackers ask for ransoms in the region of $500 – $1,000 to be exchanged for your system files. Sometimes, ransomware like Jaff even demands payment that’s up to $ 4,000.
Due to the anonymity these methods provide, a ransom payment is typically in cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. The primary damage this issue does to businesses is not the ransom really. But the disruption in operation it causes to companies. If such attacks deny you access to all your files, this can put a halt to your business operations, indefinitely.
We all know and understand the danger they can face from clicking a suspicious e-mail link. Surprisingly, despite continuous warnings from industry and cyber-security experts, businesses still experience phishing threats daily.
Among cyber-criminals, phishing is a very effective fraudulent activity for acquiring sensitive information ranging from usernames, passwords, and credit card details.
If your employee mistakenly clicks a phishing e-mail, they could expose your systems to malware attacks. Cybercriminals, depending on the targeted victim, even trawl web pages as well as profiles on the Internet to obtain critical information for use in their phishing activity.
To combat the danger from these attacks, participating in training & awareness programs about phishing is needed. Ensure that your employees understand the risks of falling for phishing schemes and ways to identify phishing emails.
Even after providing training programs for your employees, some of them tend to click links in these malicious emails. You can mitigate such risks by securing your data with a backup outside the network of your enterprise.
Relying Only on End-Point Security
You might have come across a concept known as layered security. In developing your defense strategy, this is an effective strategy to deploy. Unfortunately, scores of companies treat this approach with levity and, instead, prefer to prioritize safeguarding their devices using only endpoint security.
With layered security, you get multiple protective layers against hacking, ensuring that the machines and networks of your enterprise are secure. Equally, it becomes easier to mitigate against other likely attack vectors the attackers can deploy for delivering a payload. Robust endpoint security can offer you protection against malware in most automated cases. But unscrupulous individuals orchestrating hacking attacks can still take advantage of human error in a bid to get their payloads delivered.
Implement a layered security measure for handling this flaw could involve taking a simple step. For instance, deploying an email security solution that will work in tandem with the end-point security provision. Layered security systems help you avoid malicious emails from ever getting to their intended destination.
Ensure Your Software Is Up To Date
Hackers always scan for security vulnerabilities. If you ignore these weaknesses for too long, you are significantly increasing your chances of becoming a target. Do make sure that your system software is regularly updated.
Develop Formal Security Policies
By designing and enforcing security policies, you can lock down your systems. Protecting your network should be your priority because everyone that makes use of it can be a potential endpoint for cyber-attackers.
Hold meetings and seminars on the most effective cybersecurity practices regularly. Some of these practices include creating strong passwords, activating two-factor authentication, identifying and reporting suspicious emails, and a warning to avoid clicking suspicious links or attachments.
Build and Practice an Incident Response Plan
Despite your best efforts at ensuring robust security for your startup, there may come a time when your business falls prey to a cyber-attack. At such times, the training you might have given your employees for handling such fallouts will come in handy.
Design a response plan. That way, attacks can be identified and quickly addressed before they do irreparable damage.
As far as cybersecurity and your business go, it is vital that you prioritize the points stated above to ensure your business stays safe and secure from the malicious activities of cybercriminals and hackers. For every business — whether small or big — security is a core aspect demanding robust measures and strategies.
Petr is a serial tech entrepreneur and the CEO of Apro Software, a machine learning company. Whenever he’s not blogging about technology for itechgyan.com or softwarebattle.com, Petr enjoys playing sports and going to the movies. He’s also deeply interested in mediation, Buddhism and biohacking.