Technology is inevitable. It is in our everyday lives and it is here to stay. COVID brought us a world of Zoom calls, cloud-based services, increased online shopping, online delivery services, and the list goes on. How do we stay safe during a time where everything is transitioning to more and more of the digital world?
Cyber security is a broad term which encompasses many different aspects that can make a huge difference in a business. According to the Cyber Security & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), cyber security refers to protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. How can cyber security help your business?
Jason Bergeron, CEO of Stratify, LLC, has over 15 years experience in the field, along with extensive knowledge in both owning and running a business. His business consulting company has led him to be passionate about creating solutions for organizations to be successful. He prides his work by having an unbiased opinion when he works with a client. “I don’t make money on whether or not you go with [a solution], but I will tell you whether or not that solution is something I’m recommending. I’ll recommend you do it with your provider. I’m going to give you the tools that you need to protect yourself with. And you know, at the end of the day, if the more companies around here are unprotected, it makes it risky for us all to do business. This is something where you really want as an area, as a region. Probably nine times out of ten, it’s going to happen to the small business more.” Over the years he said the issue of hacking and spam has been a constant evolution that technology has to continuously change to keep up with. There are multiple risks that come with cyber security.
Hackers exploit weakness in computer systems for their own gain, and yes, it is harder to achieve than movies make it seem. On the other hand, malware is also an issue. They are unwanted files that cause harm to a computer that can potentially compromise data stored on a computer. Classifications such as viruses might require someone to do something before the malware actually infects the computer, such as opening an email, or downloading a file. Some malware infects without the user’s help by exploiting a software vulnerability. Once one computer is infected, the malware will attempt to infect other computers. This can be done through email, websites, and such. Another way malware can infect a computer is fake software. For example, you need a program to block ads on your browser, so you find one online to download for free. That program may actually be accessing your data and sending it to a remote intruder. Attackers may also take advantage of vulnerabilities in software patches to infect computers with malware or perform other malicious activity.
Bergeron said often attackers access data through apps and settings people just do not know are there. They are able to access data, for example, through a downloaded app on your phone which can lead to data breaches. One of the most damaging mindsets for a business is the “it won’t happen to me” mentality, and businesses must be reminded that it is better to be prepared than to have to do quality control later. Bergeron said he understands from a small business standpoint that they may not be able to afford certain things when it comes to security and that is when a conversation has to be started. “They will have compensation that will return on investment. If you do get compromised, you could be looking at $2,000 right off the bat before you do anything else. That’s what it’s going to take to get somebody out and get your systems cleaned up, IF you can recover it. But it’s really more of the conversation that says, ‘what if you can’t get your data back?’” This is a make or break decision from a business standpoint.
When it comes to cyber security, the weakest link is the user. This does not always mean the user does not have the intellectual capacity to do a simple task, but simple ignorance can lead to giving access to intruders. It proves that education is key when it comes to protecting your business. Recently, a Fortune 500 business, who certainly has a budget for security measures, had continuous attempts to get hacked. The website was of course locked down and the hackers were unsuccessful. They could not find the weak user or the vulnerable software. That did not mean they gave up, but actually ramped up the attempt. They managed to hack into the website of the restaurant which was located beside the company, compromised the restaurant’s online menu, and attached a malicious PDF file. They then waited until an employee from the Fortune 500 company downloaded the menu, along with the malware, and they were in. Something as simple as downloading a restaurant menu can lead to a business’ falling.
Surprisingly, only half of these instances are reported, simply because no one wants to tarnish reputation leading to mistrust from the clientele. Many people ask the question, “but why?” when it comes to the subject of cyber attacks. Like most crimes, it is, simply, for the money. It is a trillion dollar industry. There is, however, good news. There are ways to minimize cyber attacks.
Bergeron always advises his clients to enable two-factor authentication, have a complex password (that does not include personal information), keep device and computer software up-to-date, know where your data is stored, and watch what information you make public. He advises making a list of what technology is there, what is updated, where it is at, and who is managing it. From there, make sure to have a disaster recovery plan. Be prepared, because “it is not a problem until it is.” Some other preventives that can be taken is running up-to-date antivirus software, changing default passwords, installing firewalls, and trusting your gut. If something seems off, it probably is. The most vulnerable is because of convenience when it comes to technology. This does not mean going back to the stone ages and going anti-technology. Be smart, have a plan, and protect yourself along with your business.