Every year, computer systems are faced with new and emerging cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and breaches. Unfortunately, only 14% of small businesses have the full capability to mitigate cyber risks.As such, the vast majority of small enterprises go out of business following a cyber-attack. One of the reasons for this is that most of them don’t allocate a budget to risk mitigation.
Both large and small businesses are exposed to cybersecurity risks for as long as they have computer systems and online accounts. Unfortunately, there’s an ongoing misconception that the bigger the enterprise, the higher the risk. This makes small companies miss out on the critical consequences of a cyber-attack. Even the slightest breach of security can have dire consequences on a company and lead to its downfall.
Besides, cybercriminals seem to be indifferent about the size of a firm. Their focus is on the damage they cause and how it benefits them. On average, one single breach can amount to $3 million. For a small business, it might not survive after such a catastrophe.
Many small businesses haven’t invested in cybersecurity measures. They don’t have an IT staff and don’t use third-party security services and solutions. The question then arises why small businesses underestimate the associated risk and the need to prioritize cybersecurity.
The answer to this could be that they don’t really understand the scope of cybersecurity risks. They’re oblivious to the fact that the risk they face could just be an email away from them.
What are Cybersecurity Risks?
Cybersecurity threats keep evolving, with new strains entering the industry every year. Cybercriminals are always devising new ways to breach systems. An organization, big or small, can fortify their security if they understand the kind of threats they might encounter.
For starters, here are some of the biggest cybersecurity threats facing enterprises in various industries:
- Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware attacks are malware designed to get a hold of systems and data until the owner pays a ransom. They mostly target small businesses because they know their systems are weak. Small companies are also likely to pay the ransom to avoid losing their data.
Whether you pay the ransom or lose the affected data, ransomware attacks can quickly kill a business.
- Phishing Attacks
Phishing attacks work in an almost similar manner with ransomware threats. Phishing malware is designed to gain access to your computer system through infected emails. If the user clicks on the email, the attacker gains access to the network and all the data stored there. This include sensitive data like passwords and user IDs.
400 phishing attacks occur daily, and approximately 30% of them are successful. Small businesses comprise the bulk of the victims. It’s not uncommon for a company to receive about 9 malicious emails within a month. To make matters worse, similar attacks are targeting different channels like text messages and phone.
- BYOD Dilemma
Bring Your Own Device refers to a trend that makes businesses and their employees a lot more flexible. Small companies are likely to embrace the pattern because it helps them save both cost and time. However, when employees use their own devices to access the network, they expose the business to malware or viruses lurking in their devices.
BYOD increases the level of threat to businesses. The only way to prevent the misfortune is to have strict policies in place. All devices used on the network should be installed with appropriate antivirus and firewall.
BYOD provides dishonest employees with a leeway to steal sensitive business data from the company’s network. In more unfortunate cases, the thirdparties will also compromise the data in case the device gets lost or stolen.
- App Fraud
App stores are full of apps explicitly designed for cyber-attacks. Since they’re not all secure, you need to exercise a lot of caution when downloading them. Once you install them, they can access a lot of personal data. Attackers create fraudulent apps to breach networks through mobile phones connected to that specific network.
It’s not uncommon for employees to connect their mobile phones to the company’s network. One fraudulent app on their device is enough to crumble the entire system. Just like with BYOD cases, companies need to put policies in place regarding personal mobile devices. They should be secure and protected before being connected to the network.
- Weak Passwords
Unfortunately, many small businesses still rely on traditional authentication methods. As such, about 20% of them are prone to using weak passwords. The reason why most of them face this threat is that they don’t train their employees on the need for using strong passwords.
Fortunately, several ways can be used to improve the authentication process. One of them is using the two-way authentication method that doesn’t only rely on passwords. Biometric authentication is also another effective solution that reduces the chances of hackers being successful through this threat.
- DDoS Attacks
DDoS were mainly believed to be a thing of the past, but this isn’t the case. The threat is a growing menace, especially since the latest attack in 2017. The attacks don’t just compromise data but also the quality of service a company offers.
The attacks come from more than one source, flooding the webserver with messages and requests. A load of these messages can slow down the system and cause a website crash and malfunction. Many businesses end up losing data, customers, and revenues.
- Lack of Awareness
All the above threats wouldn’t be as successful as they are if companies were well informed about them. All types of companies, big or small, must have the necessary awareness regarding the importance of cybersecurity. All employees must be trained on the responsible use of the internet and company network.
They must have the knowledge and skills to identify threats that come hidden in emails and software they install in the company and personal devices. They must also be trained on how to create strong passwords and commit to following policies that relate to information sharing.
What is Cybersecurity Threat Mitigation?
Given of the above serious security threats, what can businesses do to reduce their chances of falling victim to cybercrime? The answer lies in cybersecurity threat mitigation. This refers to the policies and processes companies put in place to reduce the chances of falling victim to security breaches.
They also limit the extent of damage should such attacks happen. Cybersecurity threat mitigation can be broken down into three layers of mitigation. The first layer is threat prevention, which entails the best practices to protect corporate applications and data from cybersecurity threats. The second layer is threat identification, where companies use security tools and management to identify the active security threats. The third level entails the application of a remedy to the identified risk.
Cybersecurity criminals are always developing new and more sophisticated means of gaining access to company systems. Enterprises, hence, have to stay vigilant and proactive in protecting their networks and data.
For cybersecurity threat mitigation, they specifically must have preventive security measures and policies in place. They also need to have Incidence Response plans for dealing with breaches and related attempts. Here are the considerations enterprises should take into accountincreating a program to mitigate the said risks:
- Company Culture
Organization leaders must establish a culture of cybersecurity and risk management throughout the organization. Once leaders define a governance structure, communication intent, and expectations, they pave the way for accountability, involvement, and training. On-going training is necessary to maintain expertise and develop skills for dealing with new risks.
- Information Sharing
Cybersecurity is a matter of teamwork. All the stakeholders must be familiar with the risk and involved in decision making. The communication processes should encompass thresholds and communication criteria about escalating threats.
The potential risks of cyber-attack on a business should be well communicated. Information-sharing tools like dashboards that use relevant metrics can help keep stakeholders aware and involved.
All enterprises have limited budgets and staff. For the best prioritization of these resources, they must be well-equipped with the right information like trends over time, potential impact, and when a risk is likely to materialize. With this information, they can make a well-analyzed comparison of the risks.
There’s no guarantee in protecting systems against all risks, but risk management enables the continuity of critical missions during and after an attack. Resilience is the emergent property of an enterprise to be able to continue with its mission under stress and disruption.
A speedy response to risk exposure can go a long way in minimizing the impact. If risks are identified early enough, they can be mitigated in a good time. Incidence management plans should be periodically exercised.
- Cyber Hygiene
The importance of implementing basic cyber hygiene practices cannot be overlooked. Cyber hygiene focuses on the necessary activities that prevent attacks, secure infrastructure, and reduce risks. When implementing hygiene practices, begin by improving your knowledge of your high-value assets and services as they require additional protection.
Steps to Cyber Risk Mitigation
Knowing the components of the risk mitigation program isn’t enough. Here are specific steps that can go a long way in strengthening an organization’s cybersecurity position:
- Conducting a Risk Assessment
Successful implementation of cyber risk mitigation programs starts with an understanding of the actual threats and vulnerabilities that an organization faces. A cybersecurity risk assessment lists down all the practice assets that are prone to a cyber-attack. These include hardware, data, mobile devices, and systems.
The next thing is to identify the possible threats to those assets and then to evaluate the likelihood of the threats actually occurring. This makes the organization focus a lot more on prioritizing the resources to allocate each type of risk.
- Securing the Systems
Outdated programs and software and unprotected systems are the most common entry points for cybercriminals. For improved safety of the systems, an organization should:
- Install reliable antivirus and anti-malware software
- Install a firewall to protect the network against incoming and outgoing data streams
- Regularly update programs and software
- Encrypt data using readily available applications to secure them
- Regular data backups to a secure cloud platform and an external hard drive
Backups make it possible to recover data in the event of loss, damage, or ransomware attack.
- Restrict Access to Data
All staff members don’t need to have access to all of the enterprise’s data. They only need to have access to the data they require to perform their duties adequately. Determine and review access rights and privileges by using a three-tiered data classification system. This restricts access, depending on data sensitivity.
Public data may not be very sensitive, but highly sensitive private information should be handled or accessed by only a few members of the staff. Sensitive data, which if compromised, could cause irreversible damage, requires a higher level of security. Access to such data should only be on a need-to-know basis.
- Restrict BYOD
Many enterprises allow their employees to bring their personal mobile devices to work. While BYOD is convenient in most situations, it raises security concerns as they may be more exposed to security threats. They lack security controls like passwords protection and encryption, and they may easily fall in the wrong hands.
Organizations must adopt a clear BYOD policy to lessen security risks. The policy should address the devices to be used on the network and require the use of biometric authentication and passwords. The operating system must also be regularly updated and have an antivirus software installed.
- Staff Training
The employees in an organization can either be the best defense against cybersecurity attacks or the most significant leeway to the threats. No sophisticated technology will stop an employee from clicking on a phishing email or connecting to an unsafe Wi-Fi network. However, all these risks can be reduced or avoided through cybersecurity awareness training.
An effective training program teaches every staff member to identify threats and vulnerabilities that the organization face. These include social engineering, phishing, outdated software, and stolen devices. It also trains them on their responsibilities in defending the systems against these threats.
Employees should be empowered to take an active role in the security of the organization’s systems and data. Periodic instruction should be availed to reinforce prior learning and keep the staff up-to-date with evolving threats.
- Managing Third-Party Vendor Risks
Some of the security risks businesses have facedin recent years have originated from third-party vendors. Companies can mitigate this risk by adopting a policy that restricts access to their network by third-party vendors. Just like with employees, vendors should only have access to data and network portions that allow them to perform their tasks.
Make it a habit to assess vendors’ security practices. You should ask them about the security controls they employ, whether they provide security training, and if they patch and update their software. A vendor’s security practices shouldn’t be less effective than yours.
- Create an Incident Response Plan
Even with all the above efforts in place, breaches will still occur. The ability to identify them, respond, and contain the breach can significantly reduce the cost and impact of a breach. An Incident Response plan establishes a framework for detecting, responding to, and limiting the effects of a data security breach.
The response plan addresses concerns like who within the organization is responsible for investigating a breach incident, the resources available, and enumeration of the incident assessment. The resources, in this case, refer to forensic, technical, legal, and public relations.
It also addresses the countermeasures and corrective actions to be taken.
Cybersecurity threats are real, and they come with dire consequences. Enterprises have no option but to be vigilant about their systems and to whom they allow access. Part of being vigilant entails taking concrete steps like employee training, managing vendor risks, and creating a culture that promotes systems security.
Since there’s no way to protect a business 100% from attempted cybercrimes, there’s a need to have a fall-back plan in the event of an attack. This is where the importance of creating an incident response plan comes in. Everyone should be sensitized on what to do and when. They should be empowered and equipped with the right skills and resources to take the right action.