6 Cyber Threats You Can't Afford to Ignore Investing in cybersecurity infrastructure now can mean big savings down the line, but you have to know what you're up against first.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As if your business didn't have enough to worry about right now, the spectre of cyberattacks looms larger than ever. While it may seem like big names bear the brunt of digital disruption, the reality is far scarier: More than 40 percent of all cyberattacks are directed at small businesses, according to data published by Verizon.
Now more than ever, small players can't afford to have their core operations disrupted. Investing in cybersecurity infrastructure now can mean big savings down the line, but you have to know what you're up against first. Understanding the kinds of cyber threats out there is the first step to protecting yourself — and your company — against them. These are six of the most common.
Ransomware, or software that publishes private data or otherwise harms your business unless a cash reward is given, has quickly become one of the biggest threats to small businesses. According to IBEX, an IT training firm and Verizon's NDR platform partner, ransomware now accounts for more than a quarter of all malware-related breaches.
Many business owners will be tempted to simply pay a ransom for things to return to normal, but any business that's breached once can be breached again. While antivirus software is necessary to prevent the most sophisticated attacks, simply keeping your operating system up-to-date can go a long way toward preventing low-level ransomware incidents.
Related: 6 Cybersecurity Must-Haves for Your Business
When Microsoft's security team warns that a "massive" phishing scheme is currently threatening operations across the country, you should probably pay attention. Phishing is any attempt to gain sensitive information by posing as another user or administrator, and it's rampant in today's digital economy. The only way to safeguard against phishing is to totally secure any and all internal communications within your company. Email encryption, vigilant user management and regular channel management are all absolute musts.
3. Inside Jobs
Some of the business world's most notable hacking scandals, from Sony to Ashley Madison, weren't caused by sophisticated outside agents; they came from within. As much as you may trust your team, it takes just a single frustrated employee to expose catastrophic amounts of your company's data.
Unlike the other entries on this list, the solution to internal cybersecurity is more about pastoral care than digital. Openly communicate with your workers about the sensitivity of the data they have access to, and always be open to listening to the difficulties your team may be going through. You'll never be able to have complete control of your employees, but you can always give them a way to make their voices heard.
Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks boil down to malicious actors directing extremely high amounts of traffic and server requests at your business's website, grinding its functions to a halt in the process. Cyberprotection firm Corero reports that the majority of DoS attacks are small-threshold, meaning they're meant specifically to disrupt small business activity.
Boosting server capacity and at-hand computing power can help mitigate the effects of DoS attacks, but the only way to prevent them outright is by fullying investing in digital services that stop them in their tracks.
5. SQL Injection
Kingfisher Technologies reports that 26 percent of all small businesses have suffered from a SQL injection attack in the last year, yet it's likely the least talked-about threat on this list. SQL injection is slightly more sophisticated than some of the other entries here, but it essentially means inserting code from the database-focused language SQL into a site, manipulating data retrieval in the process.
Older languages, such as PHP, are particularly susceptible to SQL injection attacks, as are sites and applications that don't receive regular updates. Preventing SQL injection is something you'll want to leave to the experts, but keeping things as up-to-date as possible never hurts.
Related: Eliminating Cyber Threats in 2020: Why Enterprises Need to Rethink Cyber Security
6. Email-Based Attacks
Several of the cyber threats on this list can originate from emails — 91 percent of cyber crimes do — so it's crucial to keep your email platform completely locked down. Email-based attacks aren't a specific type so much as they're a method of attacking.
Email encryption is an absolute must, but the need for security doesn't just stop there. Ensure that all of your employees know not to open attachments from emails outside your organization, and be careful to check for email addresses written similarly to ones within your own company.
The threat to business cybersecurity is nearly ubiquitous today, but that doesn't mean you can't do something about it. Investing in digital protection now is an investment for the future — an investment you can't afford not to make.