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Avoiding cyber attacks: Tips for SMEs

A cyber attack is something more serious than the loss of a couple of documents. Loss of data can have a devastating effect on a company, both small and large. In this article, we will consider the main stages of a cyber attack, methods of repelling and preventing them – those that do not require spending a lot of money and time.

 

As a rule, small and medium-sized businesses do not pay due attention to the issue of cybersecurity. In cases where some measures are nevertheless taken, people often hope that their attacks will not be affected. According to one study, which analyzed 1,000 British small businesses, 51% of companies said they did not believe in the possibility of becoming a victim of a cyber attack. However, 60% of companies have already experienced this in one form or another.

A cyber attack is something more serious than the loss of a couple of documents. Loss of data can have a devastating effect on a company, both small and large. In this article, we will consider the main stages of a cyber attack, methods of repelling and preventing them Рthose that do not require spending a lot of money and time.

The economy is growing and developing, but more and more companies are not sufficiently reliable in protecting their data. Many firms do not defend themselves because they consider themselves too small for attacks, while others simply do not want to spend time and money protecting themselves from what they do not consider probable. However, the old saying remains true: to prevent it is easier than to correct.

What is a cyber attack?

A cyber attack is an attempt by hackers to damage or destroy a computer network or system. As a rule, this includes hacking data, in which outsiders gain full access to your important information. A cyber attack can be carried out in the form of identity theft, virus or malware infection, fraud or extortion.

Most often, cyber-attacks take the form of an attack to extort a ransom. Such attacks encrypt your data, promising to decrypt them for a small bribe. Ransomware viruses WannaCry and Petya can be attributed to classic examples of such attacks.

Another form of attack is the hidden installation of a sniffer Рan application that records incoming and outgoing traffic. It sounds harmless at first glance, but such attacks have knocked down large firms.

How is the cyber-attack carried out?

Hackers can access your network in a variety of ways. Today, most attacks are carried out covertly, almost imperceptibly.

Cyber ‚Äč‚Äčattacks are often carried out through phishing emails, mobile attacks or hacking traffic.¬†The recent appearance¬†of the Petya ransomware virus was¬†based on a vulnerability in updating the accounting system, which companies working with the Ukrainian government were required to use.¬†There are more primitive attack methods, for example, a DDoS attack, in which the system receives enormously large amounts of traffic and, if it does not withstand the load, crashes.¬†In this case, users cannot access the site or use the corresponding service or service.¬†The victims of DDoS attacks at the time (October 2016) were Twitter, Spotify and Reddit.¬†But in the case of small businesses that do not have a huge user base,¬†phishing emails are most often used.

Most often, phishing emails open the way for viruses.

Such emails are specially created very similar to regular secure emails, so it’s quite difficult to notice them. According to Tim Bandos, head of cybersecurity at Digital Guardian, the best way to prevent cyber attacks that encrypt and corrupt your data is to teach your employees to distinguish between phishing emails and secure email. Phishing emails try to present themselves as emails requiring an urgent response, quite often a file is attached to them. Some hackers have been analyzing companies for months and collecting information, trying to make a phishing email as similar as possible to a regular email from internal company correspondence. Such letters are really difficult to detect, but with proper preparation, this task is greatly simplified.

What are the consequences of such attacks?

Many companies do not believe that they can become victims of cyber-attacks, but it’s still worthwhile to take precautions. It is estimated that by 2021 the damage from cyber crimes will amount to 6 trillion US dollars per year. Such a threat cannot be ignored.

According to an article by¬†Digital Guardian, in the preparation of which 44 computer security experts were interviewed, ‚Äúpreventing an attack with the aim of extortion will help your business save tens of thousands of dollars (and even more) of losses associated with disruption of operations, data loss and other consequences‚ÄĚ.¬†Losing data can be a terrible blow to companies from both financial and reputational perspectives.¬†Even if extortionists demand only $ 300,¬†companies cannot afford to lose their reputation., and this is exactly what happens after the cyber attack.¬†The reputation of 89% of the companies that were studied during the aforementioned review was more than seriously affected after the cyber attack.¬†It is understandable because your customers expect that you will reliably store their data.¬†If you are hacked, then customers will think ten times before entrusting you with even a bit of their data.

How can cyber-attacks be prevented?

As mentioned earlier, it is enough to train your employees. However, other precautions will not harm either.

Install antivirus software

As a rule, cyber attacks are aimed at companies, but much more often all problems occur due to ordinary computer viruses. The virus is unlikely to encrypt your data, but it could very well steal it and slow down your computer. The best antiviruses can protect you from 99% of viruses. They will also protect you from spyware that monitors the activities of your company and copies your data, and from spam, which no one wants to bother with manually. Find a reliable antivirus that regularly updates its databases, and this will be the first step on the road to security.

Set up a firewall

The firewall prevents viruses from entering the computer.

Antivirus finds and removes viruses that have entered your computer, while the firewall prevents them from entering the computer in principle. In essence, a firewall is a filter between your computer and the Internet. While you work on the network, you constantly receive and send data packets. The firewall filters these packets, acting as a shield against everything dangerous. But if the virus can bypass the firewall, then it can only be removed with an antivirus program.

Use VPN

If you own a small or medium-sized business, then there is every chance that at least one of your employees works remotely. Smartphones and tablets help work outside the office! But if your employees do not use a secure network, then it is likely that your company may become a victim of hackers. This is especially true in cases where you use public WiFi access points passing through which these hackers can easily intercept. You can use the VPN service anywhere and on any device (almost), and such a service will encrypt your data. As a result, intercepting them will become much more difficult.

What is a VPN?

VPN technology (Virtual Private Networks – Virtual Private Networks)¬†was created for large companies and governments¬†so that their employees can work remotely and be able to connect to the company’s local network without endangering important data.¬†The VPN service creates a tunnel between the employee‚Äôs workstation and the company‚Äôs server, acting as protection against hackers and other persons who try to steal data.¬†Also, VPN services encrypt data: even if they are stolen, they are unlikely to be able to decrypt it.






There are free VPN services, however, we would still advise you to use paid versions.¬†Advertising, slow speed, data tracking –¬†free VPN services always have some kind of pitfall.¬†But if you purchase a paid version, you can be sure: you will receive the most reliable and fastest connection, with high-quality encryption, and no one will monitor your data.¬†Again, most VPN services organize promotions and offer their services at very affordable prices.¬†The question of how paid and free VPN services differ is¬†discussed in¬†more detail¬†in this¬†article.

Where to begin?

It’s never too late to think about protection, about protection against cyber attacks – especially. The main thing here is not to wait until the thunder strikes, and a ransom demand announcement will appear on your screen. Any company can become a victim of cyberattacks. Start by choosing an antivirus, look at our list of VPN services¬†and select the one that suits your company.¬†And most importantly – follow the topic yourself and encourage your employees to do the same (by the way, here are the¬†best blogs about news from the world of online security¬†).¬†Precautionary measures against cyberattacks will strengthen and secure your business.

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