From selling products and services online to emailing customers and networking with partners, countless businesses rely on the internet to conduct their operations. As internet service provides expand access to new regions and improve their speeds, we’ll likely see even more businesses using the internet in the future. Unfortunately, this has opened the doors to new cyber threats that business owners must be aware of.
According to a report by CNBC, up to 14 million U.S. small businesses have cyber vulnerabilities. If your business is connected to the internet, hackers or other nefarious individuals could infiltrate your information technology (IT) infrastructure and cause significant damage to your brand. Even if your business only uses the internet for communications, you are still vulnerable to attack.
One of the most common internet-related cyber threats facing businesses today is phishing. Like the outdoor activity after which it’s named, phishing is a bait-and-switch tactic in which a hacker seeks to obtain valuable or sensitive information from a business. It’s become so common, in fact, that 88 percent of businesses have suffered a phishing attack.
Phishing scams are most commonly deployed via email. From the average worker’s perspective, the email appears to be legitimate and even includes an official “from” address. Upon downloading the file attachment included in the email, however, the worker unknowingly installs malware on his or her device. And once on the worker’s device, the malware may spread to your business’s IT infrastructure.
Lost or Stolen Devices
There’s also the issue of lost or stolen devices when using the internet. If an employee’s smartphone automatically logs in to your business’s network, someone could use it to access your IT infrastructure. Furthermore, a lost or stolen device may contain sensitive data like customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and more. Hackers often seek this data to sell on the black market.
And don’t assume that someone will return a worker’s lost smartphone if they find it. According to Hub International, 70 million mobile handsets are lost each year but fewer than one in 10 are recovered.
Another problem of using the internet is the potential for a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on your business’s website or network. This involves the use of many hijacked computers and devices to overwhelm a server. Web servers do a pretty good job at handling requests from human users. If too many requests are made at once, however, the server won’t be able to transmit data quickly enough, thus causing sluggish speeds or even outages.
A report published by Verisign suggests that roughly one-third of all web server outages are attributed to DDoS attacks. When a DDoS attack occurs, businesses are often forced to take the affected server or servers offline while they identify the problematic internet protocol (IP) addresses and add them to their block list.
Protect Your Business’s Online Activities
You don’t have to take your business offline just to protect it from the internet-related cyber threats previously mentioned. There are ways to safely use the internet without exposing your business to cyber threats.
First, make sure your employees are trained on the warning signs of phishing emails. Phishing scams often involve an unsuspecting worker opening an email and downloading a file attachment. By training works on the warning signs of phishing — unusual wording, suspicious brand imaging, etc. — you can protect your business from this common cyber threat.
Consider encrypting your business’s sensitive data. Encryption involves scrambling data so that it’s indecipherable without the appropriate decrypt key. You can encrypt stored data using encryption software, and you can encrypt data transmitted over the internet using a virtual private network (VPN).
Investing in an endpoint protection system can also strengthen your business’s cyber security. Endpoint security protection software is designed to protect all computers and devices that are connected to your business’s IT infrastructure.
As cyber threats become more common, it’s important for businesses protect themselves from the growing number of threats. If your business uses the internet, you should invest in the appropriate safeguards. It’s an effective way to keep your business secure when connected to the internet.
by: Mark Palmer