Some of the most serious threats to businesses today lie in the world of cyber attacks. From phishing to ransomware, and everything in between, it is more important than ever before to be on top of network security. The cyber attacks seen today are much more sophisticated and complex than ever before. Even small businesses are being threatened and attacked by criminals over the internet. It is critical for businesses of all sizes to take steps to protect important data and essential records. The best way to do this is through the assistance of network security services, such as the ones available through Synivate.
While you are most likely already using anti-virus, anti-malware, and other security software applications for your business, it might not be enough. Your security program needs to have a comprehensive array of options for detecting and blocking viruses, malware, ransomware, and other types of dangerous cyber attacks. Employee education is key, as many of the worst problems often stem from clicking on suspicious links in emails or by visiting infected websites. Other measures can include reducing vulnerabilities or making preparations for data backup and recovery to get back on track after a serious cyber attack.
How to Reduce Vulnerabilities
One of the best ways to prevent attacks is to make it even harder for criminals to attack your network or IT system in the first place. Addressing known vulnerabilities and searching for more complex methods of access can make it more difficult for someone to exploit them.
The best way to reduce vulnerabilities in your IT environment include:
- Software Updates - Regular updates of software can thwart many cyber attacks. For example, many attacks specifically target outdated operating system software or applications that have known issues and vulnerabilities. Most cyber criminals simply need a tiny window to gain access to your computer system and critical company data. The goal is to either steal data, such as customer or financial information or install malicious code. Regular updates and patches can eliminate these known vulnerabilities and reduce the ability of cyber criminals to enter your network.
- Software Upgrades - In some cases, a simple update or patch is no longer available to fix known issues and vulnerabilities. That's when companies need to make a decision about upgrading software to a secure alternative. There comes a time when every vendor decides to stop supporting old software applications or operating systems. With security updates no longer being provided, cyber criminals have a field day accessing company networks that have not upgraded their programs and launch new attacks that target these unsupported systems.
- Firmware Updates - Firmware is a term that is used to distinguish the software that provides function to peripherals, such as printers, routers, and other hardware devices. It is also used for computers. If it is not updated regularly, firmware can also expose a vulnerability that can be exploited. It is important to update firmware whenever an update is released to avoid potential security risks.
Knowledge is Power
When it comes to cyber attacks, providing your employees with education can be the most powerful weapon. Education regarding the methods used by cyber criminals for attacks can help you and your staff spot attacks before becoming a victim. Some of the most common attacks can be prevented through education and support as part of an overall approach to network security.
Cyber Attacks Using Phishing and Spear Phishing
While this type of attack has been around for a long time, cyber criminals still rely on user error or lack of knowledge to gain access to sensitive data. They use the information that they gather, such as login credentials or customer information, to steal money or data for financial gain. Today, the emails used for phishing and spear phishing attacks have become even more sophisticated, enabling them to sometimes fool users that are experienced and educated.
Back in the day, phishing emails were easy to identify, as they often contained lots of errors, misspellings, or included crazy stories that would reel in unsuspecting users. Today, phishing emails look more legitimate, posing as popular companies and organizations. The criminals will even personalize the emails, including your name and some other type of information about you. These fine-tuned, more targeted phishing attack are known as "spear phishing" attacks. However, in spite of their efforts, it is still possible to spot an attack if you know what to look for in a phishing email.
Some of the indications that an email might contain an attack can include:
- comes from a deceptive email address, which at first glance can appear to be a legitimate address, but after careful consideration is revealed to be fake, such as firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com
- includes a request to verify or update information; typically poses as a credit card company, bank, or other financial institution
- attachements are another indicator, as many malware files are sent out in this manner containing malicious code; watch out for many different types of files, including .pdf files or Word documents sent as attachments
- deceptive URLs that do not match the displayed text; one example would be a legitimate web address, such as www.paypal.com that actually leads to a different URL when clicked; you can test links out by holding your cursor over the URL without clicking to see where it goes
- creating a sense of urgency, such as identifying a problem with an account or service and then stating that action on your part is required immediately to try and trick you into clicking for access right away without thinking
It is a good idea to spend some time working with employees or to bring in a network security expert to educate staff regarding phishing and spear phishing attacks. Explain the risks associated with clicking on links or opening attachments. Advise employees any policies relating to suspicious emails, such as deleting the email or notifying the IT department about it right away.
Cyber Attacks Using Social Engineering
Some cyber attacks are even more sophisticated and involve an actual con in order to gain access to the information that they require to access employee accounts or computer networks. This type of attack is known as social engineering, as it exploits human behavior. In some cases, it can be easier than hacking into a security system or finding other ways to gain access to computer networks. The majority of social engineering cyber attacks happen via email, such as a spear phishing email. However, they can also happen in person and over the phone.
Social engineering works by basic con methods, such as pretenting to be an employee, vendor, customer or some type of authority figure. The cyber criminals who use this technique take time to learn about your company, just enough to know the lingo and be able to speak with you on your terms. When an employee receives contact from someone who sounds like they work for the company or in the industry, they are more likely to believe what is being said and provide the information that they ask for through the social engineering attack.
In addition to learning about your company, spear phisihing experts take time to learn about you. They can learn a lot about an individual with just a simple online search. Most people provide a lot of personal information online, such as the city and state that they live in, photos of pets, kids, and other significant family members, as well as details about their profession and where they work. Cyber criminals use this information to sound even more convicing to sound legitimate.
Stress the importance to employees about being careful about posting on social media. You may even want to provide examples of how criminals can use personal photos and information as a means of gaining access to company data. Cyber criminals have had great luck in using a new baby's name or the name of a favorite pet to reset account passwords and gain access to bank accounts, email accounts or network access. The information that gets posted on social media is perfect background details for sophisticated spear phishing attacks, so the less that gets made "public" online, the better.
Synivate can come to your office and provide you and your staff with a presentation about cyber attacks. The more knowledge and real life examples that are provided to your employees about cyber attacks, the more equipped they will be to avoid becoming a victim. This is valuable to your staff, not just as employees of your company, but also as individuals. When it comes to social enginnering, phishing and spear phishing, information is the best line of defense.
Prepare for Cyber Attacks
While you might not be able to prevent a cyber attack, as cyber criminals are constantly finding new ways to attack businesses, it is possible to protect your business if you are ever attacked. The best way to do this is to work with Synivate to establish a solid data backup strategy and disaster recovery plan.
Backing up your data and other essential systems can help to reduce the effects of a cyber attack, particularly a ransomware attack. You won't have to pay the ransom in order to get your data back. You can work with our IT specialists at Synivate to get your system back online and make changes that will prevent further access by the attacker.
Protect What Matters
Simply put, you cannot rely completely on anti-malware software to protect a business in this day and age. It can take time for vendors to update software programs to defend against new malware programs or variant strains. Once a comprehensive security assessment has been performed of your system, Synivate can recommend additional measures that you can take to protect your business and essential data from cyber criminals. Our team can also work with your staff to provide training and support that will help to prevent malicious cyber attacks.
If you have concerns about network security for your business, contact Synivate right away to make sure that you have all of the proper programs, policies, and other safeguards in place. Don't wait another day to protect your business and essential data from cyber attacks.