Cybercrime is projected to cause $6 trillion in damages worldwide by 2021. With the increasing amount of information stored on the cloud, connected devices, and the internet of things, vulnerabilities are everywhere.
Cybercrime is a threat to (and targets) businesses of all sizes. For smaller businesses that do not employ full-time cybersecurity personnel, cybercrime puts customers’ and client’s data at risk, which could have disastrous and expensive consequences. For these small businesses, outsourcing IT services utilizing a comprehensive remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform with a variety of IT features can be an effective solution to cybersecurity concerns. Additionally, understanding the seven biggest cybersecurity threats is the foundation for managing risks and protecting your clients against them.
1.Malware and Viruses
Malware is a broad term that encompasses a variety of unwanted or malicious code. Often designed to damage a program or device, or steal information, malware may include spyware, adware, ransomware, nagware, trojans, worms, or viruses. To circumvent the loss of data or enable the ability for businesses to continue providing services under a malware attack, it is important to backup data so that it may be restored. This can be done with on-site backups on a hard drive, a cloud-stored backup, or a hybrid on-site and cloud-based solution.
Viruses — a specific type of malware, often change how a device operates by inserting its code into other programs: encrypting files, modifying applications, or disabling system functions. Aptly named for their infective capabilities, viruses are self-replicating, and spread by attaching themselves to legitimate files and programs. The virus is transmitted through contaminated websites, flash drives, emails, and links, and activated when the link is clicked or the infected application or file is opened.
Securing sites with AntiVirus software can effectively warn against malware threats based on previously known software, or by searching for the typical technical features that are characteristics of malware. Some AntiVirus software can also detect suspicious websites, preemptively warning users not to enter sensitive data.
2. Out-of-Date or Unpatched Software
Old software, and sometimes out-of-date hardware, is vulnerable to more modern, sophisticated, and aggressive attacks. The fast pace at which technology advances means that ongoing updates and upgrades are vitally important to mitigating risks and maintaining applications. If updates and upgrades are not often employed, the vulnerabilities left behind can easily be exploited.
One example was the WannaCry ransomware virus that broke out in 2017, infecting hundreds of thousands of computer systems across 150 countries. A few months prior to the outbreak, Microsoft released a patch to a known weakness in Windows computers. Those that chose not to install the patch left their networks unprotected, vulnerable, and exposed to WannaCry.
Out-of-date software may also not be patchable, falling even more easily as prey to more advanced cyber-attacks, especially in an era of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). While ML and AI are used in defensive strategies, these same tools are also used in attacks, propelling cybercrime to new sophisticated levels, making it crucial to keep all hardware, software, and programs up to date.
Phishing attacks are fraudulent and targeted digital messages that are meant to trick a victim into clicking or accepting a link, or into giving up sensitive information by posing as a trustworthy source or person using electronic means. 1 in every 99 emails is a phishing attack. However, businesses are becoming less susceptible to these attacks by becoming more tech-savvy, and by introducing employee training on how to detect social engineering and report phishing emails, pages, and links.
Ransomware is a type of malware that gains entry to a device or data and encrypts it, blocking access to the data being held hostage, or threatening to publish it, unless a ransom is paid. The data is blocked through a technique called “crypto-viral extortion” or “CryptoLocker,” making files inaccessible without the decryption key. Online payment is typically requested, and frequently utilizes untraceable methods such as Bitcoin. Ransomware is particularly upsetting, dangerous, and costly, as even with payment, the return of the data is not guaranteed. A business or company may also experience a loss of reputation with customers, as well as income loss from clients during the downtime.
Though ransomware may not be one of the most prevalent types of malware, it has been named the most pressing cybersecurity issue worldwide. The leading cause of ransomware is from successful phishing emails. Businesses or individuals open malware disguised through phishing tactics, and it then gains entry to the data.
Though the medical sector was the hardest hit by ransomware attacks, small to medium-sized businesses are typically primary targets, according to a Beazley briefing. Protection against ransomware includes strategies that minimize the chance of becoming infected with filtering services, firewalls, antivirus software, or remote monitoring and management software. Minimizing the impact of an infection includes backing up data and having a good disaster recovery plan (DRP).
5. Social Engineering
Social engineering involves tricking or manipulating people into divulging private information or getting them to do something. Social engineering tactics are often
- Phishing and spear phishing,
- Malicious updates or plug-ins,
- Quid pro quo, or baiting with an infected movie, or video,
- Impersonation of a trusted source,
- Or leaving an infected USB stick to be found.
Prioritizing protection from people-based attacks in a security-first culture helps to protect against social engineering. This requires training and education for both people inside the organization, as well as across the entire business ecosystem. This includes third-party and supply-chains partners.
6. The Internet of Things and Bring Your Own Device
By 2025, the internet of things is projected to amount to 75.44 billion devices. These items may include smart locks, baby monitors, vehicles, lights, laptops, tablets, webcams, appliances, medical devices, etc.
While the internet of things provides many beneficial services and gathers immense amounts of useful data, they also provide vulnerable vectors in networks that are susceptible to cyber invasions and infections.
Similar to the lack of structural soundness in attempting to secure the IoT, the “bring your own device” or BYOD culture has similar security implications. Personal devices that take the place of company property are at a much higher risk of being stolen, or transferring data on unsafe networks. The more devices with access to secure data, the more available the risk becomes which highlights the need for endpoint protection & security.
7. Physical Vulnerabilities
Human error is, perhaps the biggest security threat any business faces. The loss of a personal device, a person manipulated through a phishing scam, or a cybercriminal dressed as IT who walks right by security to access a server, all rely on physical vulnerabilities and human error. While extensive training and education can diminish the opportunity of a hack taking place, this will always be a vulnerability that must be fought against. IT teams may also leverage professional services automation (PSA) software to better track services and solutions deployed and to forecast emerging threats or vulnerabilities. Coordinating employee education and security awareness with IT service providers can help ensure everyone is on the same page and up to date.