How To Protect Your Business From a Cyber Attack

Technology has created many positive changes that can streamline several business tasks. But it’s also led to cybersecurity threats that can harm your business and reputation. Understanding the risks of a cyber attack and the steps you can take to safeguard your data and systems is essential. Continue reading to learn about common threats and tips that may improve your cyber security.

Common Threats

Malware (malicious software) is an umbrella term that refers to software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, or computer network. Malware can include viruses and ransomware.

Ransomware is a specific type of malware that infects and restricts access to a computer until you provide some sort of ransom, usually money. Ransomware is generally delivered through phishing emails and exploits unpatched vulnerabilities in software.

Spyware is another malware designed to gather information from a target and send it to another entity without consent. While some types of legitimate and legal spyware operate for commercial purposes, such as advertising data collected by social media platforms, malicious spyware steals information and sends it to other parties.

Phishing is a cyber attack that uses email or a malicious website to trick you into sharing information (like passwords) and using that information to infect your computer or system with malware and collect sensitive data.

Although phishing emails appear to come from a legitimate organization or known individual, that’s a ruse scammers use to entice users to click on a link or open an attachment containing malicious code. Be cautious about opening links from unknown sources or sharing sensitive data online. If something seems suspicious, don’t click on it.

Types of Viruses

There are so many types of viruses, worms, and other malicious programs that they can be overwhelming. Of course, a reputable antivirus software program can deal with all these types of viruses, but the following categories provide a simple explanation.

  • Viruses are programs designed to replicate and spread themselves across the internet. They can infect files or file systems on your computer, causing damage or preventing your computer from working until you remove them from your system.
  • Worms are similar to viruses except that they don’t replicate themselves — instead, they use computers already infected with a worm as nodes in a network called a botnet (a collection of devices under remote control). Worms then perform attacks against other systems, such as denial of service attacks or spam email accounts.
  • Trojan horses look like normal applications but hide malicious code within them, which allows hackers access to your system once installed on your device(s).
  • Rootkits are stealthy malware applications that allow hackers backdoor access into servers and networks without being detected by antivirus software programs. They do this by modifying core operating system functions like memory allocation tables or registry entries necessary for rootkits’ execution before their installation process.

As a result, even if these modifications were detected after the installation was completed, there would be no way of identifying where exactly they were made without extensive forensic analysis. 

Tips To Prevent Cyber Attacks

Scrutinize Messages

Don’t open links in emails from people you don’t know. It’s easy for cybercriminals to make their messages look legitimate by linking them back to credible sites. For example, if a friend sends a link asking for help or advice in some way (e.g., “I need help finding this address”), be sure that person has already posted about the issue before replying with your response (ideally making a comment or reply).

Be careful when opening email attachments, even if they come from someone you know. Verify that any emails received requesting personal information are legitimate. One way to check is by carefully examining the email address. Often, scammers use addresses that closely resemble a company or organization.

If you receive an email with an attachment, don’t open it unless you know the sender personally and have asked them to send it to you.

Change and Update Passwords

One of the first steps to securing your business is changing the default password on all your office equipment. For example, printers, photocopiers, or fax machines will often have a default password that allows anyone with physical access to it to use it without entering an additional code.

By connecting a laptop directly to the machine’s USB port and using only this interface for any alterations made via software (such as changing black ink cartridges), they could potentially access sensitive information stored within those machines at any time.

  • Continue to update passwords regularly.
  • Use strong, not easily guessed passwords, and be sure to use a different password for each account.
  • Don’t share your passwords with anyone.
  • Encrypt all stored files on laptops or PCs

If a laptop or PC containing sensitive information is lost or stolen, don’t simply assume someone else won’t access protected data. There are many ways hackers can breach remote storage sites, even when you use encryption software such as BitLocker. For example:

  • A hacker may physically remove memory cards from computers before stealing them to get hold of vital information later.
  • A hacker may remotely access data stored inside encrypted hard drives by connecting them directly to another computer (this works incredibly well if they’ve accessed admin rights beforehand).
  • If a hacker can find out the location of your backup copies, they’ll probably try hacking into those too!

Have a Sound IT Security Strategy in Place

Protecting your business from cyber attacks is a must. A sound IT security strategy is the best way to prevent hacks and breaches, but what exactly does that mean?

A sound IT security strategy means that you have a plan in place for how you’ll protect your business from cyber threats. It may also include:

  • An inventory of all of your computer systems and network equipment
  • A complete inventory includes location, brand name, operating system, software installed on each device, and any personal information stored (like customer credit card data).
  • A plan to patch any software vulnerabilities discovered by developers so they can’t be exploited by hackers looking for weak spots in an organization’s defenses
  • Regularly scheduled maintenance checks performed by staff members trained on proper procedures for securing their devices against malware or viruses.

Fixing these vulnerabilities reduces the risk of having sensitive data stolen from your company’s computers.

Secure Your Wireless Network 

  • Don’t connect to public networks on your smartphone or laptop unless necessary (and turn off any features like Wi-Fi after doing so). The list includes home networks and those at libraries or coffee shops.
  • Consider using VPN services and firewalls (which can also be used as antivirus software) to further secure personal information and financial transactions on devices connected over Wi-Fi networks like smartphones used around town or at work.

Keep All Software Up to Date With the Latest Security Patches

Software patches or fixes are quick-repair jobs designed to resolve functionality issues, improve security, or add new features. Software patches generally fall into three categories: bug fixes, security updates, and feature updates.

  • Patching is an ongoing process that needs to be done continuously.
  • It’s essential to keep all software up to date with the latest security patches.

We hope you found this article helpful as you consider the cyber security of your small business.

Want more content like this? Subscribe to our small business newsletter.
Disclaimer: the information provided on this page is meant for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current resources and recommendations available. Please consult with your financial, tax, legal, and other relevant advisors when making decisions about your small business.