Hacking and cyber crime have become a serious threat to businesses of all sizes. As well as customer account information, criminals target businesses to access staff social security numbers and bank details. Hackers once used their skills to test computer systems and develop their reputations, but they are increasingly intent on financial crime. A worrying trend in the world of cyber crime is the use of so called ransomware.
Ransomware encrypts the data of any computer or network it infects, making it inaccessible to the legitimate owner. Cyber criminals use ransomware to hijack essential files and information and hold it hostage until hefty ransoms are paid. Experts predict that many businesses are making payments to criminals as a quick resolution to this form of extortion. Unfortunately, agreeing to criminal demands often leads to further attacks.
New cyber threats and forms of ransomware are emerging all the time, and business owners must take steps to protect themselves. The following tips will help to reduce the risk of a security breach and potential financial losses in the digital age.
1) Educate employees on data security issues
Employees are one of the greatest potential weaknesses when it comes to online security. Using weak passwords, accessing suspicious websites and opening attachments from unknown sources are common sources of online security breaches. If possible, access to sensitive data should be restricted to designated staff. Employees must understand the threat of cyber crime and their personal responsibility for actively preventing it.
2) Review company processes
Employees may unwittingly open the door to criminals if company processes don't take account of hacking and cyber risks. Having set protocols for the storage, access and destruction of data is a step towards greater security. Restricting web surfing and use of social media on company IT equipment is a simple way to reduce the risk of potentially harmful software infecting systems. Any staff dealing with personal or financial data should have strict security procedures to follow.
3) Have a backup process
As the primary purpose of a ransomware attack is to deny access to data, having backup processes in place is an easy way to reduce their impact. Larger businesses back up data to alternative servers, but smaller enterprises may not be able to afford this option. Using cloud storage or external hard drives are easy ways to ensure you have copies of important data in case of a cyber attack.
4) Use antivirus and firewall software
Software protections are a key defense against hacking and cyber criminals. Connecting a computer to the Internet without antivirus software and a firewall is like leaving the door open to malware on your data and systems. Security software must be kept up to date, as cyber criminals are constantly working to find loopholes and ways to breach protections. Smartphones and tablets used for business purposes should also have antivirus protection installed.
5) Develop an incident response plan
In spite of having protections against ransomware in place, there's still a risk of an attack being successful. Responsible business owners should have plans in place to deal with a security breach. As well as dealing with the issue of accessing data, a response plan should include notifying customers who may be affected and improving security to prevent further attacks.
Government agencies are doing all they can to deal with the threat of cyber crime, but the scale of the problem makes it very hard to resolve. Business owners can play their part by taking steps to reduce the risk of a ransomware attack.