How to protect your business from cyber-attacks in the modern digital age

cyber security

For modern businesses, establishing an online presence is a crucial step towards growth.

Not only will the internet allow you to reach an exponentially larger audience, critical business processes like accounting, CRM, and HR can also be streamlined with cloud-based solutions.

However, there are a few drawbacks of the digitalization of businesses.

For one, tying your brand to the online presence of your employees may cause the misrepresentation of your company’s vision and standards. A single, poor-taste tweet may put your business under fire even if you neither endorse nor condone such online behavior.

Additionally, the internet is filled with cybersecurity threats that could put you out of business.

According to the 2018 Cost of Data Breach Study by Ponemon, the worldwide average cost of data breaches sits at a whopping $3.86 million.

For most small businesses, the costs of breaches are definitely crippling. In fact, statistics show that 60 percent of all small businesses that were recently targeted by a cyber-attack fail within six months.

The good news is, preventing cyber-attacks from ever harming your business isn’t rocket science.

In the same way, cybersecurity threats are prevalent, tools that can help you defend against them are more accessible now than ever — thanks to the internet.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the strategies that will keep your business secure online.

1. Protect Against Zero-Day Attacks

The war against cybercrime isn’t fought only by cybersecurity companies.

Software developers are also directly involved in the security of their solutions. After all, they need to offer a safe and secure product if they want to retain their customer base.

That’s why these vendors make it a point to roll out security patches via software updates on a regular basis.

These patches are designed and released to fix detected security vulnerabilities in the previous versions of their software. As such, the first cybersecurity strategy you should adopt is keeping your software applications up-to-date whenever you get the chance.

However, there is one classification of cyber-attacks that regular software updates can’t stop: zero-day attacks.

In simple terms, these are attacks that exploit a security loophole as soon as they’re discovered — without giving security companies and software developers enough time to react. As such, zero-day attacks are arguably the most dangerous online threat that businesses and consumers face today.

Although there’s no surefire way to stop a zero-day attack, businesses can nullify their impact with a managed SIEM or Security Information and Event Management service.

This is a kind of cybersecurity solution that offers real-time monitoring and 24/7 incident response. Some vendors also incorporate machine-learning capabilities into their solution, in conjunction with several threat intelligence feeds, to counter threats before they even cause symptoms.

2. Cultivate a Company Culture of Safety

Apart from zero-day attacks, human error is known as one of the top causes of all reported data breaches.

This encompasses every incident that stems from the mishandling of data, software, hardware, or communications that leads to breaches — whether intentionally or unintentionally.



That said, it should be one of your priorities as a business to cultivate a cybersecurity-aware culture. Start by training your employees to observe safe and secure digital practices, such as:

Using Secure Passwords

Believe it or not, hilariously unsafe passwords like “123456,” “letmein,” and “qwerty” are still being used even by professionals today.

To encourage your staff to use strong passwords, promote the use of password managers such as LastPass and Dashlane. In addition to generating and saving strong passwords for websites, these applications also allow you to seamlessly share login credentials without actually revealing your passwords to your team.

Avoid Public WiFi Networks

If you hire contractors or allow employees to work remotely from time to time, it’s important to raise awareness against the use of public WiFi networks.

A skilled hacker can easily intercept your communications or inject malicious data into Transmission Control Protocol or TCP streams. This is particularly dangerous if you happen to share sensitive information to your employees via unencrypted communication tools.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

As an extra layer of security, you can implement the use of two-factor authentication with an application like Authy.

As the name implies, two-factor authentication is the use of two verification steps that users must take before they gain access to an account. Authy lets you implement this feature in various services like Gmail, Dropbox, Slack, and social media networks.

3. Security Testing

Nobody — not even the most experienced developers — can build an airtight application or website overnight.

After all, some vulnerabilities may only surface once the project is given a test run. That’s why security testing is a crucial component of the development life cycle.

For example, in a website, thorough testing must be conducted to find web pages that shouldn’t open without the proper credentials. Backend platforms like content management systems and web hosting must also be tested for any potential vulnerabilities.

Cybersecurity services with penetration testing and vulnerability assessment features like Bulletproofcan help you detect issues in your systems before hackers discover them. Vulnerability assessments must be part of your long-term cybersecurity plan since new risks may arise as your network grows and changes.

4. Use Encryption

Finally, encryption is a standard that keeps your data safe from hackers. It prevents data theft by converting readable information into code, which can only be decoded with the right decryption key.

Encryption is a feature integrated into certain software. Backup software like Duplicati, for example, utilizes high-level encryption to keep your data safe from unauthorized access.

For internal communications, using an encrypted messaging tool like Brosix and WhatsApp is a step in the right direction.

Another way to use encryption to protect your business is to get an SSL certificate. It turns your HTTP protocol into the more secure and aptly-named HTTPS or HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure.

With an HTTPS connection, sensitive information exchanged through your website, including passwords, credit card numbers, and personal data, will be completely encrypted in transit. Savvy customers will also be more likely to make a purchase from your site — knowing that their private information will be handled in a secure manner.

Conclusion

Protecting your business from cyber-attacks shouldn’t be an afterthought. It must be one of your top priorities if you value your endeavor’s growth and long-term sustainability.

The strategies above should equip you for the security challenges in the modern business landscape.

Of course, anything can happen and data breaches may still occur despite your precautions. But then again, a little preparation is always more valuable than intense cleanup and recovery efforts as far as cybersecurity is concerned.