By Robert James
The ever-increasing reliance on the Internet has seen lives transform. No matter where you are and what you want, there is always a solution on the Internet. Snowfall, hail storm or scorching hot sun, sit back home and order all you want. Food, clothes, electronics, cars and what not. The entire world at the click of a button.
This trend of using internet really expanded around the 2000s. The Internet turned to mobile and this was a game changer. Those who were wary of this technology turned to it. The market exponentially grew and so did the opportunities. Information started to expand with the introduction of the internet. With such a widespread use, business started to look for ways to make it work for them.
Websites sprung up and brands set up new e-stores. Seeing fancy stuff from the windows while you walk in the mall. Those days were gone. All that was out displayed on the windows can now be seen from the computer screen. This was not enough, smartphones sprung up and the screens grew smaller. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can always buy stuff.
Opportunities are great. Only until they fall into the wrong hands. Opportunities arise and they are not always taken by constrictive people. This expansion of the internet and this online industry attracted a lot of unnecessary attention.
Opportunists on the Rise
Hackers have existed since the day the Internet was introduced. Further development opened new horizons for everyone. Hackers will not only run after monetary data but also personal information. The introduction of websites and apps opened new doors and avenues. This saw a rise in cybersecurity’s importance.
Small and medium businesses have been most vulnerable to this threat. According to the Congressional Small Business committee, 71% of cyber-attacks happened at businesses with less than a hundred employees. This makes small businesses a favorite target.
Motivation and Reasons
That is a massive number: 71%. There are reasons that lead to this number. A few are listed below.
Most small- to medium-size businesses underestimate themselves. They underrate their reputation and importance. This leads to the idea that no one wants to attack their cyberspace. While they sleep the attack occurs and it is almost too late to do something about it.
There is a reason why they are small. Most small businesses lack the financial muscle to put security measures in place. This lack of money results in vulnerabilities. This ultimately translates into a cyber attack. A price too high.
Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field. Hiring a person one time would not do the job. Techniques change and so do the tactics to counter them. Then there is a cost of software and hardware needed to ensure airtight security. So training and updates will always be needed to stay safe and secure.
A company has undertrained employees; cybersecurity is least of their priorities or simply lack training. Once the target is set, there can be different ways to cause damage. Depending on the type of attack, the aim and end result will vary:
DDoS Attack (Denial-of-service and distributed denial-of-service)
A denial-of-service attack over-burdens a system’s resources. This results in a large number of service requests which then start to pile up which results in no response to requests. This is carried out using malware which has control over multiple devices.
There can be multiple reasons for a DDoS attack. It can be the simple satisfaction of denial of service. This attack can also benefit a direct rival. Overwhelm one website which will take the traffic away from your website to another one.
There are many kinds of DDoS attacks. The most common ones are TCP, SYN flood attack. Knowing a treat is one thing and countering is another. Based on what kind of threat you are looking for enable you to ward off any potential threats. Your strategy to fight a DDoS attack can be dealt in many ways. Know the threat and choose a strategy to stay secure.
MitM Attack (Man-in-the-middle attack)
MitM or man-in-the-middle attack is self-explanatory. An attacker intersects client and server communication, insert itself in between the two and does the dirty deed.
There are different types of MitM attacks:
- Session hijacking
- IP Spoofing
- Password Attack
Passwords are the most common mechanism of authentication. A password is a key to a locked door. Only the one possessing it shall pass through it. Obtaining passwords is a very effective attack approach. Access to a person’s password can be obtained by sneaking around the desk, “sniffing” the connection to the network to look for unencrypted passwords.
Malicious malware is the unwanted software that sits silently in your device and spies on you. It has the ability to spread and replicate. Here are the most common types of malware:
- Macro viruses
- File infectors
- System or boot-record infectors
- Polymorphic viruses
- Logic bombs
- Security solutions
How to Prevent Cyber Threats
To solve a problem one must first know what the problem really is. Now that we know the importance of cybersecurity it is now time to move on towards solutions. We have established the importance and a few types of cyber threats that you may face.
Let’s get right into cybersecurity solutions and practices to keep clear of cyber threats.
1. Train Employees
You have so many people working for you. Not all are equal, duh! This means not everyone is tech savvy or may not know best practices to be safe, and most will need awareness and training. This not only brings them up to speed but will also ensure that your team knows what to do and what not to do. Take away the chances of honest mistakes and you have started on the right track.
To those who say employees know it all, you may not be accurate. The clock ticks, calendars change and time flies. Everything changes with time and so does technology. This change in technology means new methods and means of attacking. A simple workshop should be enough for the tech-savvy members of the team. They are updated know the latest and you are safer than before.
Last but not least, it always a good idea to document everything. How’s that relevant here? When something goes wrong most look to put the blame. The easiest escape route, I wasn’t informed, I wasn’t there. Cut this chord right at the beginning and take a small survey right at the end of a training session or a meeting or simply send a confirmation email after the sessions end. No loose ends!
2. Cultivate Safe Password Practices
We know how passwords work. Simple, right? We have also established how common password attacks are. The most commonly used practice will also be the most abused one. Safe password practice may sound cool and complicated but it really isn’t. Securing passwords and creating strong ones are not very difficult to manage. All it takes is a little effort. Little here is literally little.
According to a report, most of the data breaches happen due to password attacks. They are either lost, stolen or simply breached. How can someone lose their password? Well, many lose their mobiles, wallets. Passwords that contain a meaningless letter, characters and numbers are easier. Stealing a password is easier. You write a password on a piece of paper, just so that you don’t forget. Memorize it and then discard it. Someone on the lookout goes through the trash and finds a combination of random characters, digits, and numbers. Bingo!
There are a little more complicated ways as well. Giving access to unsafe devices to your network. Someone attaches a computer or a mobile to your printer, access to your network. If the device is compromised, that’s all it takes to get through all and any safety measures you may have in place. Still difficult? Watch the movie “Troy” and you’ll know how an innocent act cost someone an entire kingdom.
Have your employees change passwords every 60-90 days. That’s not frequent, at all. That’s how often change has to be. To make things safer, a strong password is a must. Ass lowercase, uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. A combination of all these characters increases password strength. Hard to guess, harder to remember.
3. Multi-Factor Authentication
We’ll stick to passwords for a little bit longer. The password is a great and easy way to stay protected. You create one, a strong one that is, memorize it and you are good to go. An unbreakable password is good but topping it up with another layer of protection is better. Good password backed up with another password, sounds like a puzzle. A maze that leads to your treasure.
This process of adding another layer to your password is known as two-factor authentication or two-factor authentication. You type in a password and a code is sent on another communication medium, usually mobile phone, and you enter this second code as your second password. Password to secure another password. Cool, safe and protected!
4. Secure Wi-Fi
Business Wi-Fi can be an easy way to access data. There can be multiple solutions to secure your Wi-Fi. You can limit its access to your employees only and set up a different network for customers. To make it even safer, don’t give away the password to all the employees. Come up with a mechanism that helps employees connect to the work Wi-Fi. Limiting access to the network will also reduce the threats.
Another way to go could be getting software that protects your Wi-Fi. This can be purchased or you can look for a provider that offers with their internet plans. For example, U verse Internet offers McAfee security suits to protect Wi-Fi for safe surfing and networks.
This protects you from an external threat. Threats that try and gain access while someone is already connected to your network. Malware that tries and through the internet. The second is securing your Wi-Fi. A string Wi-Fi password followed with a software like this protects you from a lot of threats.
Securing networks and websites can be expensive. Here in this, we have taken a simple approach to ramp up cybersecurity. These steps are low cost and highly effective. Though there are other more expensive elaborate solutions these are beneficial for small businesses.