Your Uncomplicated Guide to Information Technology Security Risks

 In Articles, Technology Insights
IT Security Guide

Why is IT Security Important?

What is Information Technology Security? Here at SSR, we define it as strategies put in place to safeguard against unauthorized access to a company’s financial information, private communication, intellectual property, data centers, and other computerized systems or devices. IT security covers a wide array of safeguarding activities like firewalls, content filters, password management, data backup, disaster recovery, mobile device management, and more. IT security protects against malware like ransomware and social engineering such as phishing, spear phishing, vishing, and whaling.

Why should your small business make cybersecurity a priority? What you may not know is that 58% of security breaches take place at small companies like yours nationwide.  A lab study last year uncovered that the average data breach costs $120,000 in repairs, recovery, and damage control. And 62% of small to mid-sized businesses don’t have any way to deal with security issues in-house. If this is you, you’re not alone in letting this issue fall to the bottom of your priority pile.

Prevalence of Threats

Technology professionals are always clamoring to stay a few steps ahead of the criminal element in our cyber world. New vulnerabilities are being found all the time and criminal hackers have used them to find ways to maneuver around anti-virus software. One famous example of this was a virus called WannaCry that was active a few years ago. The ransomware was able to exploit over 200,000 devices in less than 24 hours in 150 countries. The sad thing about this is that the damage was totally preventable. There was already a patch to remedy the vulnerability that had been available for three months.

Incidents like this and many high profile security breaches continue to underscore the importance of keeping up the essentials of online security for your business. A ransomware attack occurs every 14 seconds, and Cybercrime damages will reach $6 trillion per year by 2021.

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The Biggest Fraud and Breach Threats

Business leaders need to be aware of cybersecurity threats out there such as Ransomware and Phishing Attacks, which are external threats coming from malicious attackers attempting to break into and compromise your network. There are also internal threats to be aware of that occur as a result of the actions of your team. These can originate from BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies. In addition, they can happen due to a lack of training or awareness around best practices that prevent data and financial information from being vulnerable to attack.

Staying ahead of internet technology security threats is an ongoing process that varies with the times and industry trends. The top business challenges facing business owners today for IT security include the following.

Ransomware

Ransomware is known for stopping computer systems from functioning until a fee is paid.  Victims of a ransomware attack often click on what appears to be a safe attachment, and as a result of clicking, harmful material called malware is installed on the user’s device that shuts down all of the user’s personal information, data, and device functions until a fee is paid. There are decryption tools available in some cases, to remove the malware, but it can be time-consuming and doesn’t always work. Paying the fee is not advised, but a lot of people do and in those cases, it doesn’t always work. The best way to prevent ransomware attacks is to train employees so they know what to look for and can avoid clicking on an unsafe attachment or link. It is estimated that the Cybercrime profitability of Ransomware (revenues derived from extortions based on encrypting data and demanding payments) is $1 Billion. 

DDos Attacks (Distributed Denial-of-Service)

A DDoS attack is a targeted effort to shut down a company server by flooding it with abnormal amounts of internet traffic. The result of these attacks can shut down a company’s website and databases making the organization unable to carry out its routine daily functions. This type of attack happens when many compromised systems flood a targeted system with too much traffic and shut the target down. The best way to spot a DDoS attack is to pay attention to normal web traffic and be able to identify anything out of the ordinary. There are a few methods available to prevent a DDoS attack that involves routing excess traffic into a safe place, limiting the number of requests your server will accept in a given time and installing the correct firewalls to safeguard your online ecosystem.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

A BYOD policy is the established list of rules and protocols an IT department will use to support and govern employee-owned devices such as computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones for use at work. Problems with these policies occur in the workplace when the devices bring unwanted viruses, programs, or other downloads into a corporate repository of data or workplace servers. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of allowing personal devices at work. The upside is that there’s no learning curve and everyone gets to use the device that makes them happy. The downsides are a potential loss in privacy and issues with security. The best way to avoid issues is to do a lot of upfront planning to mitigate the risky aspects of your policy.

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Phishing Scams

Phishing is the most common tactic and accounts for 92% of attacks. When a phishing scam occurs, malicious hackers coerce unsuspecting victims to reveal personal information, including passwords and credit card numbers through emails that pretend to be from reputable companies and people. This usually appears in the form of an email or other electronic communication. Even though at first glance they may appear to be legitimate, a phishing email will often have a lengthy and suspicious-looking email address in the “from” section, strangely worded messaging with spelling errors and other small differences in branding. They ask you to take some type of action like clicking on a link or opening an attachment and stress urgency for you to do so. The best way to avoid this form of identity theft is to educate employees and install an anti-spyware program that fits your particular needs.

Obsolete Systems

Some of the biggest threats are due to having systems that are obsolete and unpatched A good example of this is the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008/R2 & Exchange Server 2010 End of Support – these systems will no longer be supported by Microsoft which will leave businesses exposed to security risks. This along with many other outdated systems create opportunities for cybercriminals to steal data and do other forms of harm to your business.

Zero-Day Exploits

Zero-day exploits happen when a vulnerability is announced and Cybercriminals then take advantage of that window to use the vulnerability until it is fixed. For example, a major software vendor may announce a vulnerability has been discovered and a patch/upgrade is pending to fix it. Cybercriminals will utilize this vulnerability until the patch/fix is installed.

Protecting Against IT Security Risks to Move Your Business Forward

From corporate America to “Main Street,” from major cities to small town America and private individuals, no one is immune from Cybercrime. If you are online, from having a networked device in your home to a major organization, you are vulnerable to information technology security threats. However, just like securing your home from a break-in, there are strategies and methods to significantly reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of the various types of Cybercrimes flourishing today.

Armed with the knowledge and the right IT team, you can avoid becoming a statistic. Starting out with a few basic security essentials can make all the difference in avoiding the catastrophic price tag associated with security breaches that can significantly reduce your profits.

Want to jump-start your IT security? Take the first step with our Security Review.

Watch for our next blog post, which will cover five IT security policies to implement in order to reduce your risk of an attack.

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