5 cyber security threats your business needs protection from

Cyber security awareness has come a long way over the years, but there's still plenty of work to do. Malicious actors continue to take advantage of poor security hygiene and glaring network vulnerabilities. To make matters worse, the average cost of a data breach increased 14% in 2019 to reach more than $3 million, according to IBM and the Ponemon Institute.

Whatever the current state of your organisation's security posture is, there's always room for improvement. Cyber criminals and the tools they employ are more sophisticated than ever, and only the most vigilant businesses will be able to spot data breach attempts before they do lasting damage.

In particular, your organisation needs to protect itself against these five costly cyber security threats.

1. Phishing attacks

Some cyber threats are so effective that data thieves use them year after year without needing to make any fundamental adjustments. Phishing attacks have stood the test of time because they're easy to launch and pay big dividends if successful. All it takes is one employee to click on a malicious link or download a malware attachment to expose an entire organisation and put its data at risk.

Phishing attacks can range from simple, generic emails targeting large numbers users to more sophisticated spear phishing attempts that zero in on a specific individual. Spear phishing is especially effective because it uses social engineering and publicly available information to customise email communications and trick targets into handing over data or providing login credentials.

Email threat analysis tools can help weed out phishing emails, screening all incoming communications and attachments for malware. Cyber security training and education is a good all-around approach to better security posture. Teach your staff to recognise tell-tale signs of a phishing attack to stop these threats in their tracks.

2. Ransomware

It's extremely difficult to undo the damage caused by ransomware. What makes this particular threat unique is that the cyber criminal doesn't just steal the victim's data – they make it impossible to access without a payment.

In a ransomware attack, the malicious actor encrypts sensitive or valuable data, preventing the target from accessing it. That data is effectively held for ransom – hence, "ransomware." Until the victim pays up, their files and records are locked away behind a wall of encryption.

The best defence against ransomware is to create extensive backups to retrieve impacted data.The best defence against ransomware is to create extensive backups to retrieve impacted data.

Paying the ransom isn't a viable solution because there's no guarantee that the cyber criminal will hold up their end of the bargain. There's really no incentive for them to hand over the encryption key and release ransomed data once they've received the victim's money. In fact, they may just turn around and ask for more money because they already know the target is willing to pay.

Defensive security measures will help catch ransomware attacks, but it's vital that businesses install new updates as soon as they become available so they can keep up with the latest threats.

Perhaps the most effective way to circumvent ransomware is to take the sting out of these attacks by creating data backups. An extensive data backup strategy, with plenty of redundancy built in, will negate the impact of losing data to a ransomware attack. A targeted business could simply retrieve copies of the encrypted data from a failover site. The organisation would still have to contend with the repercussions of a data leak, but those files won't be lost forever.

3. AI-enabled malware

Traditionally, cyber security tools like antivirus software have relied on signature detection to identify threats and eliminate them. The back-and-forth arms race between data security professionals and cyber criminals has produced more sophisticated malware strains capable of eluding those types of defences.

The latest stage of malware evolution incorporates artificial intelligence to create "thinking" strains that actively try to deceive cyber security tools. That can include mimicking human behaviour to fool security monitoring tools looking for suspicious activity.

The cyber security community has developed AI-enabled tools of its own to counter these threats. But that has just led to cyber criminals injecting learning AI solutions with bad data in an attempt to corrupt them. The cyber security arms race isn't going to end anytime soon. The best response businesses can muster is to diligently test their defences and plug holes in their security posture.

4. DDoS attacks

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks often target media companies like gaming services or internet providers in an attempt to overwhelm their networks and systems. Cyber criminals use botnets – large groups of infected and compromised machines – to send a veritable flood of traffic and network requests to a single location, all at once. DDoS incidents can take an organisation's network down within minutes or, in less severe circumstances, create disruptive user experience problems.

DDoS attacks overwhelm networks by hitting them with a wave of traffic at a moment's notice.DDoS attacks overwhelm networks by hitting them with a wave of traffic at a moment's notice.

Another concern is that DDoS attacks are sometimes used as a distraction, directing an organisation's attention toward the wave of incoming traffic and taking its eyes off vulnerable points in the network.

5. Zero-day threats

A malware strain or security vulnerability that has never been recorded before is known as a zero-day threat. Zero days are so dangerous because there's no surefire way to defend against them. Adhering to a diligent security update and patch management routine will certainly help, but there were always be new threats popping up that can't be accounted for quickly.

Zero-day threats are one of the reasons cyber security has shifted toward strategies that focus on remediation rather than prevention. The general consensus among data security professionals is that it's not a matter of if businesses will experience a data breach, but when.

Monitoring solutions that flag malicious or suspicious activity on the network can reduce the amount of time between detection and the initial intrusion. That's good food for thought, considering the IBM and Ponemon Institute report found that it takes 200 days, on average, for businesses to identify a threat on their network or in their system.

Another holistic strategy is to create a detailed and comprehensive incident response plan that outlines precisely how team members react to a data breach. If your employees know exactly what to do during a security incident, there's less of a chance that they will make a mistake or freeze up when the moment arrives.

The truth is that there's no single silver bullet that will solve all of your security concerns. A multi-faceted approach is the best way to cover all of your bases and limit your threat exposure. Working with Biztech's cyber security experts will give you a full understanding of where your vulnerabilities are and how to address them. Contact our team today to learn more about our industry-leading data security services.