Technology and the internet are central to most businesses’ day-to-day processes. Remote working is on the rise (and probably here to stay), making cyber security even more important for business continuity. Cyber security is protecting and recovering computer systems and data from potential cyber attacks. Businesses must be vigilant and proactive when it comes to their online safety, as cyber attacks can have severe consequences, including reputational damage, loss of business data, and financial costs.

Key takeaways

  • Technology and the internet are integral to most businesses’ day-to-day processes, which means cyber security is crucial for business continuity.
  • Cyber security is the process of protecting and recovering computer systems and data from potential cyber attacks.
  • With remote working on the rise, the need for cyber security has increased.
  • Cyber attacks can lead to reputational damage, loss of business data, and financial costs.
  • Businesses can be prepared for cyber attacks by educating employees, using multi-factor authentication, having secure passwords, using anti-virus software, backing up data, hiring a reputable cyber security company, and preparing a disaster recovery plan.
  • Common types of cyber attacks include phishing, malware, ransomware, DoS/DDoS attacks, MitM attacks, SQL injections, zero-day exploits, APTs, and social engineering.

What is cyber security?

With the huge surge in remote working, most interactions people have with their colleagues are through the internet. With people working from home, customer data, employee data and business information are being stored on home networks—making it much more vulnerable to a cyber attack. This—combined with the fact that it feels like every website we visit requires a new online account—means that different companies have access to and are responsible for storing a lot of information about us.

If your employees are among those adopting their living rooms, kitchens or spare bedrooms as an office, you are a prime target for cyber attackers. The more businesses rely on the internet for their daily processes, the greater the opportunity is for attackers to take advantage of your online systems. Cyber security is the process of counteracting these potential threats—protecting and recovering your computer systems from any type of cyber attack.

What are the common types of cyber attacks?

  1. Phishing: An attempt to trick individuals into sharing sensitive information through email, text message or social media.
  2. Malware: Any software that’s designed to damage, disrupt or gain unauthorized access to a computer system.
  3. Ransomware: A type of malware that encrypts a victim’s files and demands a ransom payment to restore access to them.
  4. Denial-of-Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS): A cyber attack that overwhelms a network or website with traffic or requests, causing it to crash or become unavailable.
  5. Man-in-the-middle (MitM) Attack: A cyber attack where an attacker intercepts and alters the communication between two parties to steal data or gain access to a system.
  6. SQL Injection: An attack that exploits vulnerabilities in a website’s SQL database to access and manipulate sensitive data.
  7. Zero-Day Exploit: An attack that takes advantage of a vulnerability in a software program or application that’s unknown to the software’s developer or the public.Advanced
  8. Persistent Threat (APT): A long-term cyber attack aimed at stealing data or intellectual property from a specific target, often carried out by a nation-state or organised criminal group.
  9. Social Engineering: A tactic that exploits human emotions and behaviour to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing an action they wouldn’t normally do.

The basic job of a cyber security framework is;

  • To protect your data (including sensitive data) from theft and damage
  • To protect and recover your networks, computer systems and devices
  • To maintain a strong firewall
  • To launch defence attacks against any imminent threats

What can a cyber breach mean for your business?

If left unsecured, your networks being targeted by cyber attacks can be potentially disastrous for your business, affecting your business continuity, your reputation and also your bank balance.

Reputational damage

If your customers’ data has been compromised, they will likely lose trust in your business and your ability to keep their information safe in the future. This loss of trust from customers can certainly lead to a loss of business if they begin looking to your competitors instead. As a result of this loss of business, your revenue will be down. So, cyber attacks can affect your reputation and as a result, your bottom line.

Loss of business data

Cyber attackers don’t discriminate when it comes to the types of information they’re willing to steal. It might be customer data for the purpose of identity theft—but it might also be intellectual property, employee data or business plans.

This can be extremely difficult to recover from, particularly when it comes to intellectual property. If an idea that has already been developed is stolen, not only are you losing the potential income that idea brings but the time and money used to develop it in the first place.

Financial costs

As well as losing data to cyber attacks, it’s more than likely that the attack itself will set you back financially. For example, with ransomware, business information is held until a fee is paid, which is often substantial. Plus, in many of these situations, even once the ransom is paid, the data is still irretrievable. Without access to their information, businesses can be paralysed and as a result they lose money, both from not being able to operate and from the outgoing cost of the ransomware attack.

Alternatively, occurrences like a GDPR data breach could bring around severe regulatory sanctions or fines of their own.

How to best prevent a cyber security attack

An organisation should have a detailed plan to prevent cyber attacks, but here are some key takeaways to get you started:

Educate your organisation

Your employees are your first line of defence. Even from an office, user behaviour is responsible for 90% of data breaches. So, now that devices are being used for longer, outside of core working hours, and potentially by multiple users—working from home presents an even greater risk. You should ensure your team is up to speed on common scams like phishing emails and typosquatting (targeting Internet users who incorrectly type a web address into their browser). Being vigilant and aware of potential threats to your business will ensure employees are not duped by cyber attacks hiding in plain sight.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Also referred to as Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), MFA is the process of securing your accounts against threats by putting more than one security measure in place. MFA uses apps like Google Authenticator to send a unique code to your mobile device when logging into your account. This way, anyone logging into your account needs to know your password and also have access to the authenticator app on your phone. There is even a third factor added if your phone requires a password or Face ID. Having this extra security on your business accounts will make it a lot harder for hackers to pose a threat.

Secure password

To ensure your networks are as safe as possible from a password breach, you should encourage all employees to choose passwords that are hard to guess. This is often a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. It’s also strongly recommended that you don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, whether that’s within or outside of work. Finally, to be extra safe, it’s a good idea to change passwords every few months. You can use Google’s password manager, or a third party plugin like 1password to keep track.

Anti-virus software

When it comes to what you can do yourself to protect your business’ computer systems, anti-virus software is the answer. Be sure to use a reputable and trustworthy software and make sure you are allowing it to scan your systems regularly. Additionally, with the rate at which cyber attacks and malware are becoming more advanced, it’s important that you update the software on a regular basis so that it can keep up with and defend against technologically advanced threats.

Backup your data

No matter your business, it’s vital that you backup any important data on your computer systems. Whether it’s coffee spilt on a laptop, or a nasty phishing scam—lost data can really set you back. That’s why it’s best to ensure it by investing in cloud storage, which has a tougher security mechanism that is much more difficult for attackers to penetrate. Also, cloud storage servers are generally housed in a remote location from your business which means that they’re safe from any attacks on your internal servers. Learn more about private cloud hosting with iomart.

Hire a reputable cyber security company

Do your research before choosing a cyber security expert to help your business. At iomart we offer fully managed data protection, with our expert engineers helping design, deploy and configure the service to check it meets your business requirements, remains cost-effective and is highly resilient.

Prepare a disaster recovery plan

In the event there is a data breach at your company, what do you do? It’s important to answer this question in advance of an attack by preparing a disaster recovery plan. Our Business Continuity services identify key data, systems and processes crucial to your business operations and ensure you can get them up and running quickly. This can be important in protecting you against ransomware attacks or mitigating a breach’s effects.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, get in touch.