Abolish Cyberattacks: A Guide to Cybersecurity Risks & Solutions for Businesses

by | Oct 25, 2018

Right at this moment, your cybersecurity defenses are actively protecting against an onslaught of attempted attacks: Malware …Viruses …Spam email …Infected attachments …Bad links …Malvertising …

These everyday threats have become so numerous, we hardly think about them. Even your basic anti-malware software will silently punt most of them, all day, every day. But all it takes is just one successful attack to wreak havoc on your business. And if you’re not taking the right precautions, it could happen at any moment.

In this post, we look at the state of cybersecurity today and the critical ways in which you should be safeguarding your organization.

 

The impact of a cybersecurity breach

Last week, a ransomware attack all but disabled servers and desktops at the Onslow Water and Sewer Authority in Jacksonville, North Carolina. While it did not interrupt actual water service, the attack hobbled the authority’s computer systems and numerous public services, including email, service orders, account creation, connections, disconnections, development review, backflow program, engineering, and the agency’s human resources operations.

Separately, we also learned last month that the 2017 ransomware attack against Pennsylvania senate Democrats cost the group more than $700,000 in IT recovery costs alone.

Earlier in 2018, Atlanta government offices were hit by SamSam ransomware, which ended up costing the city a staggering $17 million.

Needless to say, ransomware attacks can be extremely costly – and that’s only one type of cybersecurity breach you need to worry about.

 

How the costs add up

Malware and other cyberattacks can cost your business in numerous ways – especially when the attack impacts your operations. Here are just a few of the ways these costs can skyrocket:

  • Operational / production downtime
  • Idle workers
  • System malfunction
  • Technology repair / replacement
  • Data theft, loss and recovery
  • Sales / revenue interruption
  • Shipping / logistics stoppages
  • Damage to company reputation, loss in customer confidence

Ransomware is unique in that it comes with the added cost of the ransom itself (which you shouldn’t pay, by the way, except in extraordinarily dire circumstances) – but those costs tend to pale in comparison to the costs of downtime. According to figures released by Datto, a single hour of downtime can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $5 million, depending on the size of the company.

 

2018-2019 Cybersecurity Statistics

Because of the constant and growing threat of cyberattacks, it’s no wonder that cybersecurity remains a chief concern among IT professionals and executives. Consider some of these recent stats:

  • 70% of surveyed companies said their security risk “increased significantly” in the past year (Ponemon Institute via Barkly)
  • 54% of surveyed businesses were compromised by cybersecurity breaches in 2017, impacting their data and/or IT infrastructure
  • 77% of successful attacks were “fileless” (i.e. delivered without an end-user downloading or executing an infected file)
  • 4 out of 5 companies replaced (or built onto) their antivirus solutions in 2017
  • Global cybersecurity spending is projected to hit $96 billion by the end of 2018 (Gartner via Barkly)
  • Nearly 60% of successful malware attacks are on small businesses (Verizon Enterprise via Barkly)
  • 92% of malware was delivered by email

 

Human error is (still) a big problem

Here’s the hard truth …

When it comes to cybersecurity attacks, we often have no one to blame but ourselves. That’s because the vast majority of successful attacks can be traced back to human error. Even with the best defenses in place, companies remain at risk of major breaches caused by relatively small human mistakes.

The most common scenario is an employee opening a bad email, containing one or more of the following:

  • Infected attachment
  • Links to malicious websites
  • Links to sites disguised to look like sites the user would ordinarily visit (phishing attack)

According to one report, a whopping 90% of data breaches are caused by human error. In defense of these victims, spam and phishing emails are increasingly deceptive and sophisticated. And when employees aren’t properly trained on how to spot bad emails, the risk of their being duped rises significantly.

 

The need for employee education

There are a number of technologies and IT controls that help reduce the risk of a successful cybersecurity breach, and we’ll get to those below. But equally important is employee education.

To help thwart cyberattacks, employees need to be thoroughly trained on the importance of safe email/web usage.

Key topics your staff should learn:

  • How to spot phishing scams
  • Ways to inspect and handle email from unknown senders
  • Tips for avoiding email attachments and hyperlinks
  • The risks, dangers and costs of successful cyberattacks
  • Company policies for email, web and software installation

Ideally, this training should be part of your onboarding process, so that workers get the education they need right from the start. But also, the training should be repeated periodically for all workers, so that everyone is on the same page.

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Finally, be sure that all employees are part of this process, including executives and IT folks. We are all prone to mistakes, and cyberattacks are constantly evolving, so it’s important that everyone in the organization receives the most up-to-date information on an ongoing basis.

 

Iron-clad tips for technology, protocols and configurations

Human error will always be a factor, but there are several other important precautions you can take to thwart a cyberattack when those mistakes inevitably happen. So that even when an unsuspecting user allows a ransomware infection, for example, your systems will have extra layers of defense against a full-scale meltdown.

Here are some of the key cybersecurity technologies and steps we recommend:

  • Back up your data: No matter how good your cybersecurity defenses are, you still need a reliable data backup system as a failsafe. No technology is completely immune from a cyberattack. So in the event of a breach that compromises your critical data, you’ll be able to recover more quickly and prevent a costly disruption.
  • Patch everything: Unpatched systems are recipes for disaster. You can significantly reduce your risk by simply patching your software, operating systems and firmware whenever new updates are available.
  • Use a good anti-malware solution: Don’t skimp on this. Every business should be using a commercial-grade anti-malware system to stop potential cybersecurity breaches in their tracks. Anti-malware software should be automatically updated as soon as updates and new definitions are available. They should also provide active, real-time scanning for email and web, in addition to automatic full-system scans.
  • Configure firewalls: Block access to and from known malicious IPs. Use network firewalls (or dedicated firewall appliances), ideally with Layer 7 protection for application profiling, stronger web filtering and intrusion prevention.
  • Limit user account access: Every user account on your network should be limited to the files and folders they need, and they should only have write-access in those directories when absolutely needed. These configurations can greatly reduce the risk of a malware infection spreading across your network.
  • Use Software Restriction Polices (SRP – Windows) or similar controls: This will allow you to set restrictions on applications so that only approved software can be launched on your machines (thus preventing malicious applications from executing).
  • Safeguard email: Most malware is delivered via email. In addition to deploying the steps above, you should be using strong spam filters and email scans to weed out unwanted messages and prevent executable files from reaching users in the first place.
  • Test your vulnerability: Conduct penetration tests at least once a year to determine how well your systems will stand up to a major attack. Penetration testing can be done manually, in-house, by your IT teams, or you can use a myriad of outside services to simulate a variety of attacks.

 

Trends to keep an eye on

As we mentioned above, cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving. Just in the last few months alone, we’ve been seeing a major shift away from ransomware to other lucrative hacking, like cryptojacking.

Here are some of the latest trends to keep an eye on:

  • Fileless attacks on the rise: Within the next year, a third of all cyberattacks are expected to use fileless attacks, such as exploits that require no user action at all. (Ponemon Institute via Barkly)
  • Ransomware being replaced by cryptomining: Ransomware payloads made up roughly 70% of all malware in mid-2017, but they dropped to only 5% a few months later. Instead, hackers are increasingly using cryptojacking malware, which stealthily uses your system resources to mine cryptocurrency.
  • Targeted attacks increasing: Malwarebytes has noticed an increase in the number of attacks that appear to be targeted at specific organizations, industries and countries. Hackers may be finding their efforts are more lucrative when they make their cyberattacks more narrowly focused on specific groups.
  • More hackers uncovering data exposures: Data exposure is a unique form of breach in which hackers access company data that has been inadvertently exposed to the public (or not properly secured). Wired says these types of breaches are becoming more commonplace, and future breaches could be accompanied with ransom demands or extortion.

 

Deploy the best data protection

Protect your data from a cybersecurity disaster with business continuity solutions from Datto and Invenio IT. For more information, request a free demo or contact our experts today by calling (646) 395-1170 or by emailing [email protected].

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Tracy Rock is the Director of Marketing at Invenio IT. Tracy is responsible for all media-related initiatives as well as external communications—including, branding, public relations, promotions, advertising and social media. She is one busy lady and we are lucky to have her!