A cyberattack is any attempt to expose, destroy, steal, or gain unauthorized access to a computer network or personal device. Cyberattacks and data breaches have become very common these days.
by Julie Hughes for TurnOnVPN
Supporting Images from Pixabay.com
Did you know that cybercriminals will try to hack your computer every 39 seconds? That’s right. According to a study conducted at the University of Maryland’ Clark School, hackers are constantly trying to break into your internet connected PC. Individuals and entities alike can fall victim to cyberattacks.
However, cyberattacks targeting businesses are more prevalent. Often, we come across news of cyberattacks and data breaches targeting large corporations in media reports. It’s common for start-up entrepreneurs to assume that they are safe from cyberattacks. But no business is too small to evade a cyberattack or data breach. Nearly half of all cyberattacks (43 percent) are targeted at small and midsize businesses, including start-ups.
Why Cybercriminals Target Start-Ups
So, why do hackers target start-ups and other small businesses? Well, for starters, most start-ups don’t have a well-developed cybersecurity infrastructure. Some don’t have any form of system data security at all. At this stage, the vast majority of start-ups don’t even have a dedicated IT team and if they do, training and budget are often inadequate. The lack of training also means that employees are not aware of the various social engineering tactics used by hackers and may unwittingly help in attacks.
In the digital age, data is king. Hackers will always try to steal company data and sell it to the highest bidder on the dark web. Despite their size, start-ups often have access to highly confidential information on people and businesses. Some of this data may include social security numbers, credit card information, et cetera. This is a gold mine for online criminals. This information grows more susceptible to security breaches as it becomes increasingly available in digital formats.
Combined, all these factors make start-ups an attractive target for cybercriminals. Hackers are increasingly deploying automated scripts that indiscriminately seek out thousands of computer systems and personal devices at a time, trying to find vulnerabilities. The absence of protection makes start-ups comparatively easy to attack, affording cybercriminals readily available entry points to access and steal valuable customer data.
The Financial Implication of a Cyberattack
A cyberattack or data breach can cost your business time, money, and vast amounts of sensitive company information. With cyberattacks costing businesses 2 trillion US dollars in 2019, the financial implications of a data breach can be devastating. Individually, a cyberattack will cost a business upward of $188.000 on average. In most cases, small businesses will go under, six months after a data breach. But cyberattacks are so common these days that we have become almost numb to the numbers.
Common Cybersecurity Risks and How to Defend Against Them
Movies and TV shows often portray cybercriminals as individuals with a grudge who target specific organizations and manually try to hack their computers. But this is not entirely true in reality. As stated earlier in the article, hackers use automatic scripts to seek out vulnerabilities in hundreds of thousands of connected devices and systems. These attacks are mostly indiscriminate and any business, large or small, can be a victim.
Start-ups often use technology to store and manage customer information, which makes these small enterprises a top target by default. Here are some of the most common cybersecurity risks facing start-ups:
- Data leakage. A data leak is an unauthorized transmission of sensitive information from within a business to an external environment. A data leak can be intentional or accidental. The information exposed through a data leak may include contact info, user credentials, payment card information, et cetera.
- Malware attacks. Hackers may deploy malware to look for vulnerabilities in your systems. Cybercriminals will take advantage of easily exploitable vulnerabilities in your system by launching a malware attack. There are many forms of malware attacks depending on the type of malware used. Ransomware is an increasingly common malware attack being used to terrorize small businesses.
- Phishing. Accounting for 91 percent of all attacks, phishing is the most common form of cyberattack. Phishing is the general term for any sort of social engineering tactic intended to trick the victim into sharing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or whatever it is the perpetrator is after.
If your business uses some form of internet services or is just connected to the internet, hackers will try to steal something from you. Start-ups and small businesses, in general, are the biggest victims of cybercrime. According to Forbes, there will be a 300% increase in ransomware attacks in 2020, mostly targeting small businesses. Therefore, it’s imperative for these enterprises to take the necessary cybersecurity measures and protect themselves.
Here are a few tips to help you protect your start-up from a wide range of cyberthreats out there.
Assess Risks and Vulnerabilities
Assessing risks and vulnerabilities helps you know where your business is most vulnerable. Being aware of your weak points will, in turn, help you defend against the wide range of cybersecurity threats out there. You can start by auditing the most valuable data and information in your possession including customer information, sensitive company data, etc.
Install a VPN for Wi-Fi Router
A virtual private network (VPN) creates a private network from a public internet connection guaranteeing online privacy and anonymity. VPNs are most often used by corporations to protect sensitive data, and you can do the same for your start-up. A VPN on your office’s router will secure your office’s network against DDoS attacks and a wide range of other online threats.
Make Sure That Your Data is Backed Up
As a start-up, you need to ensure critical organizational data is backed up and available for restore in the event of a data breach. A comprehensive backup strategy is a vital part of a start-up’s cybersecurity safety net. In the event of a ransomware attack, you will be able to wipe all your hard drives, restore your data from the cloud, and start afresh.
Restrict Access to Company Data
There is no reason to allow everyone access to company data. You can limit access to data through access control. Access control is a selective restriction of access to data. Limit access from employees and third-parties unless it’s required by their role in the company. Access control will help you guarantee that users are who they say they are and that they have permission to access company data.
Install Antivirus Software
Antivirus, sometimes referred to as antimalware, refers to a set of programs designed to protect your system from malicious programs. Malware may include viruses, trojans, spyware, worms, etc. Antivirus software helps you protect your start-up’s data from hackers and other online adversaries. Antivirus software can also improve performance by removing glitches and unwanted programs designed to bog down your computer system.
Today, a growing number of cyberattacks are directed at the employees’ lack of awareness instead of vulnerabilities in the system. Your employees need training on cybersecurity best practices to protect themselves and the business against cyberattacks and data breaches. Training sessions should include guidance on how to make strong passwords and keep them private as well as how to recognize spoofed or malicious emails.
Incident Reporting Mechanism
The goal of an effective incident reporting mechanism is to process incidents as effectively as possible and minimize the impact of a cyberattack on your business. An incident reporting mechanism will also help your IT security team ensure that all cybersecurity incidents are reported and properly documented and take the necessary steps to prevent or minimize the impact of an attack.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
Updating the software on your computer and other devices is one of the most effective ways to protect your start-up from cyberattacks. Most importantly, make sure that your antivirus software is up-to-date, and download recommended updates as soon as you receive the alert. Software updates are essential to your start-up’s digital safety and cybersecurity.
Keep Up with the Latest Hacking Trends
Cyberthreats are fast evolving; you never know what’s going to hit you next. Staying on top of cybersecurity trends will help you identify weaknesses in your organization as well as the technologies that are relevant to your business. Research and following reliable tech news sources on social media are great ways to go about it.
Cybersecurity has become a major problem for businesses all over the world. While mega breaches dominate the news, the vast majority of cyberattacks happen within smaller businesses. Start-ups, in particular, are often targeted by cybercriminals. Due to their weak — sometimes non-existent — security infrastructure, and the general lack of resources, start-ups are comparatively easy to attack. Start-up entrepreneurs need to fix these issues if their businesses are to survive.