Cyber security threats, including cyberattacks, phishing attacks, and ransomware attacks have increased markedly since 2020. As the workforce began working from home due to the pandemic, some of the usual tight controls in the office environment could have lessened.
What is a cyber threat?
A cyber or cyber security threat is a type of cyber crime, and is a malicious act that seeks to damage data, steal private information, or disrupt digital operations.
Phishing is the most common type of cyber threat, followed by someone impersonating an organisation in emails and online. Other incidents experienced by small businesses include spyware and malware attacks, hacking, and denial of service attacks.
Most businesses cannot afford to have all or part of their network and services compromised by a cyber attack. It is crucial, therefore, to understand how to protect your organisation from cyber threats.
How to protect yourself from cyber security threats?
In this article, we discuss three ways business owners can safeguard their organisations against the actions of cybercriminals.
1. Invest in encrypting and backing up data
When it comes to malware attacks, where an unauthorised person/s gains access to your computer network, IT systems, data, or other digital resources by using malicious software, being able to switch to backed-up data which is unaffected by the cybercriminal’s software is your best defence.
Although the criminals may claim that your systems will be restored, or your data returned if you pay them money (known as a ransomware attack) there is no guarantee that this will happen. Having current, backed up digital resources is cheaper and more reliable than placing your faith in the goodwill of cybercriminals.
Under the UK GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018, if your small business processes personal or sensitive data you must take reasonable steps to safeguard it from a data breach.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is to encrypt or scramble the data. Information is encrypted and decrypted using a secret key. Because only authorised personnel will have access to the key, criminals will not be able to decipher the encrypted data if a cyber threat occurs.
Top tip – If many of your employees are now hybrid working (from home and the office), check that your existing backup methods remain effective. By undertaking an audit of how your organisation’s files and systems are backed up you can swiftly spot and rectify any weaknesses in your processes and procedures.
2. Train your employees to be cybersecurity aware
Although you can invest in expensive systems and equipment, your cybersecurity is only as effective as your employees. They are the ones who can spot suspicious emails, detect faults on the network, and alert relevant stakeholders if there is a security breach.
Your best protection against a cyber threat is your personnel, however, to be effective, they need to receive ongoing, relevant training. The best type of training is role-based; training is far more likely to stick if it directly relates to a person’s day-to-day job.
One way to make your investment in staff training more effective is to work on creating a cybersecurity culture that spreads throughout your entire organisation and all those who work within it, including freelancers.
Developing a culture needs to come from the top down, so ensure you and your management team follow good cybersecurity practices, for example, not using your personal devices for work and meticulously following your company’s cybersecurity principles.
Top tip – Train your partners and suppliers. Cybercriminals will often manipulate partners and suppliers to gain access to an organisation’s network. Training those outside your organisation demonstrates how seriously your business takes cybersecurity and further enhances its cybersecurity culture.
3. Conduct regular audits
One of the most common cybersecurity mistakes made by small businesses is to draft comprehensive policies and procedures, train staff, partners, and suppliers, and then relax, believing that the issue of cybersecurity has been taken care of.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals are constantly developing new ways to infiltrate systems and access personal data held by organisations. Therefore, your cybersecurity methods must be regularly evaluated through audits and drills to check that they can protect your business if a new type of attack occurs.
Furthermore, you need to continuously review, revise, and enhance perimeter protection, including using virtual private network (VPN) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions, plus updated firewall and intrusion detection systems (IDS), and separation of network access based on employees’ roles.
Top tip – as part of reviewing the performance of your cybersecurity processes and procedures and identifying weaknesses, ensure you stay updated on new types of cybersecurity threats.
Get legal assistance from LawBite
Preventing cyber threats is always preferable, both from a financial and reputational perspective..
Developing a relationship with a solicitor experienced in cybersecurity will ensure you understand your statutory and regulatory duties and responsibilities. Furthermore, a solicitor can assist you if an incident does occur, ensuring the best interests of your business and its customers are protected.
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