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The Safe Side of the Fence: 7 Types of Cyber Security Threats You May Face as a Business Owner

Cybersecurity should be a priority for all businesses. Unfortunately, many business owners ignore the possibility of an attack, leaving their devices, networks, and data vulnerable to hackers. The first step to strengthening your business’s cybersecurity, however, is to familiarize yourself with some of the most common cyber threats facing businesses.

1) Phishing

Businesses have reported a disturbing number of phishing attacks in recent years. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it was one of the three most common cyber threats in 2017. Phishing typically involves the use of email to manipulate the victim into providing the hacker with sensitive information, such as the login information to his or her business’s network. Phishing emails are made to look legitimate, so employees who receive them often follow the hacker’s instructions by clicking a malicious link, downloading a malicious file or responding with sensitive information. A phishing email may contain the same sender name, subject line, logo and address as an email from a legitimate company, essentially tricking employees into opening it and following the hacker’s instructions.

2) Keystroke Logging

Keystroke logging is a cyber threat that can literally capture every letter, number, and symbol that you or your business’s employees type. It’s a unique form of malware that’s designed solely to capture and transmit the victim’s keystrokes. Once deployed, keystroke logging malware will record every keystroke on the infected computer or computers and send them back to the hacker. Logging in to your business’s bank accounts, customer databases or other sensitive accounts with keystroke logging software infected on your computer can reveal the respective account’s login information to a hacker.

3) Ransomware

Ransomware is another cyber threat that you may face as a business owner. True ransomware uses cryptography to encrypt data stored on the victim’s computer while demanding a ransom in exchange for the encryption key. If one of your business’s computers is infected with ransomware, you won’t be able to access your data while it’s encrypted, making this a highly troubling cyber threat. But there’s faux ransomware as well, which locks a victim’s data without encrypting it. It’s easier to recover from faux ransomware than true ransomware, but it too can temporarily take your business offline. There are online resources where you can learn more about ransomware and how to protect your business from it.

4) MITM Attacks

A man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) attack is a cyber threat that involves the unauthorized access of a digital communications channel, such as your business’s internet connection. If your business uses the internet, a hacker can perform a MITM attach to eavesdrop on all messages sent and received by you and your employees over the internet. After gaining access to your connection, a hacker can intercept packets of data that contain sensitive information, including emails, logins, payment information and more. The good news is that MITM attacks can be prevented using encrypted communications. Connecting to websites and servers using the HTTPS protocol, for example, ensures that all data transmitted is encrypted. A hacker may still be able to access an encrypted communications channel, but he or she won’t be able to decipher the data packets without the encryption key. If you connect using HTTP, on the other hand, data packets won’t be encrypted, leaving them vulnerable to hackers.

5) DDoS Attacks

Not to be confused with a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) is a cyber threat in which a hacker or group of hackers use a network of multiple devices to spam the victim’s network with requests. A typical DDoS attack can involve more than a half-million requests from tens of thousands of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. As these requests flood your business’s network, you won’t be able to perform any meaningful amount of work over the internet due to painstakingly sluggish speeds.

Traditional cyber security solutions like anti-malware software won’t protect against DDoS attacks. Rather, you need advanced solutions like a firewall that blocks suspicious IP addresses as well as network monitoring services. Blocking all requests would prevent your business from sending and receiving data over the internet, so DDoS recovery requires identifying the problematic IP addresses and rejecting them from your business’s network.

6) Brute-Force Attacks

According to a cybersecurity report by Verizon, roughly six in 10 of all cyber attacks involve stolen or cracked passwords. Even if you create strong passwords for your business’s accounts, though, a hacker may break them using a brute-force attack. This type of cyber threat involves submitting many username and password variations, typically using software, until the hacker has found the right combination. Most hackers won’t guess a strong password on their own, so they use software to constantly spam different passwords. To protect against brute-force attacks, you should implement an automatic lockout of your accounts after a specific number of failed login attempts. If a hacker doesn’t guess your username and password combination after two or three attempts, for example, this will prevent him or her from trying again for a period of time.

7) Computer Virus

A form of malware, a computer virus is a self-replicating program that can wreak havoc on your business’s network. According to Symantec, there are around 80,000 different computer viruses, which collectively cause billions of dollars in damage every year. Computer viruses are characterized by their self-replicating nature. Once deployed on your business’s computer, they’ll create new code that spreads to other computers and devices on your network. Hackers deploy computer viruses for a variety of reasons, such as stealing data or causing financial loss. Regardless of motive, recovering from a computer virus can be difficult since the infected code spreads to other connected devices.

Cyber threats such as phishing, keystroke logging, ransomware, MITM attacks, DDoS attacks, brute-force attacks, and computer viruses aren’t going away anytime soon. And it only takes a single well-placed threat to destroy your business’s data and its reputation. As a business owner, you should make cybersecurity a priority to protect against these and other cyber threats.


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