Nearly every month, another high-profile hack or cybersecurity threat makes national headlines, forever tarnishing its victims' reputations. And because these attacks occur so frequently, many businesses don’t even realize they’ve been breached until cybercriminals have compromised a significant amount of data and cost them millions in damages.
In fact, the global average cost of a company cyber breach in 2019 reached $3.92 million, according to an IBM report. And a whopping 7.9 billion records were exposed in the first nine months of 2019, according to data from RiskBased Security, a global leader in cybersecurity and risk data. This helped cement last year as the worst on record for data breaches.
Even here in the Cleveland area, a local church lost $1.75 million to a highly-preventable email hack.
As a business leader, you know you need to care more about your organization’s cybersecurity, but it often feels outside your wheelhouse. And for a good reason – for decades, data protection fell squarely on the shoulders of IT professionals.
Today, though, the issue has become so prevalent, it’s time for you to get your entire team up to speed.
To help you get started, here’s a straightforward cybersecurity definition, plus several tips to help you boost your company’s safeguards.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the protection of systems, programs and networks from unauthorized users or cybercriminals who aim to access, change or destroy information – usually for financial gain or notoriety.
Successful cyberattacks often result in the theft of sensitive electronic data, disruption of business services or both. Cybersecurity relies on people, processes and technology to work together to reduce the risk of a cyber breach.
A good security strategy not only includes proactive software and hardware protections but also establishes a set of best practices team members must follow, as well as a disaster recovery plan should your business endure a breach. This way, even if you become a victim of an attack, you can prevent additional financial loss from excessive downtime.
What Types of Threats Does Cybersecurity Help Protect Against?
Today, nearly all business operations rely upon digital systems. From connected devices and networks to the data you use to make business decisions, the most important parts of your business need technology to survive.
Unfortunately, every new piece of tech within your organization represents yet another entry point cybercriminals can exploit to access your networks and wreak havoc. And cyberattacks can take a few different forms.
Here are two of the most common cybersecurity threats you should consider when preparing your strategy:
- Phishing: A phishing attack involves a criminal sending an email that appears to be from a reputable source, usually to steal credit card numbers and login credentials. This type of threat can involve the criminal using social engineering to manipulate well-meaning parties into revealing sensitive data, often by claiming to be in a position of power. (A highly targeted form of this attack is referred to as spear phishing.)
- Malware: This is malicious software (such as ransomware, spyware and viruses) a criminal can use to access a device or damage a computer, server or network. Typically, a criminal will try to trick someone within your organization into inadvertently downloading a malware-laden program or clicking a malicious link.
Cybercriminals often combine multiple methods. For example, hackers may send a phishing email with an attachment that, when downloaded, infects the victim’s computer with malware or ransomware. Others may use phishing as part of a business email compromise/social engineering attack.
5 Things You Can Do To Improve Cybersecurity
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a 100% effective safeguard against cybercrime. However, by aligning your people, processes and technology through your cybersecurity efforts, you can significantly reduce your risk.
Here are just a few things you can do right now to bolster your security:
- Educate your workforce: The single most important thing you can do is to educate your team on security best practices, such as tips for spotting a phishing email, how to create more effective passwords and who to inform if they make a mistake. Consider regularly hosting a business-wide cybersecurity 101 class.
- Invest in reliable technology: Not all tech is created equal. When it comes time to replace devices and infrastructure, make sure you’re choosing products with sophisticated, built-in security protection. Criminals are becoming savvier but, luckily, so is business technology.
- Set up multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) helps enhance your protection by serving as an additional barrier against cybercriminal activity. It works by requiring users to successfully present two or more credentials to access a device, program or other restricted technology. For example, they may need to enter their password as well as a randomized code delivered to their mobile device.
- Stay up-to-date on new threats: New cyberattacks emerge daily and, while it may be challenging to stay on top of every single threat, it’s essential you at least understand the types of risks you’re facing. The more you know about new trends in the world of cybercrime, the better you can protect your business and your team members from becoming another statistic.
- Work with trusted IT experts: Managing all your IT strategy and mid- to small-business cybersecurity planning needs internally is a massive undertaking. Additionally, your IT pros likely are immersed in granular, day-to-day efforts and might not have the time and expertise to devote to managing your cybersecurity. Outside IT advisors, cloud experts, managed security service providers (MSSPs) and security advisors can provide a fresh perspective and often come with years of experience helping businesses like yours.
As a business leader, you know it’s crucial you take every possible measure to protect your business assets and prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands. After all, just one hack could cripple your organization and destroy your brand’s reputation for good. Luckily, by educating yourself and your team, investing in the right solutions and partnering with managed security service provider experts, you can significantly reduce your risk and ensure lasting peace of mind.