2021 is the year of big hacks – hacks that affected thousands of businesses and consumers. From the Colonial Pipeline hack to the SolarWinds hack, it became clear that cybercriminals will become bolder and more effective at extorting gigantic sums as ransom. This is a wakeup call for companies to reconsider their current cybersecurity protocols. What about companies that are still innovating their processes and are in a position to evaluate different options? Should they be scared by terms like phishing, encryption, PCI compliance and the like? We believe that taking cybersecurity essentials as a top priority does not have to come at a high cost and require many resources, but it should lie at the heart of any business that works with data (any business, that is).
First, let’s discuss how hackers gain unauthorised access to systems.
Malware & ransomware
Malware is a malicious software that gains access to a computer or network exploiting holes in its security. Malware can override settings and change them without the owner ever noticing, thus extracting sensitive information over a period of time.
The most popular type among cybercriminals targeting larger businesses these days is ransomware. This is a type of malware that exploits vulnerabilities in the business’ systems to deploy a malicious software that extracts all available data and then ‘locks’ the equipment so the business can’t use it or restore it to a previous backup. Then, hackers send a ransom request to hand back the stolen information and unlock the equipment. If the business doesn’t comply, hackers can dump all the stolen information online – and sometimes it’s very sensitive personal data of the company’s customers so the pressure is immense.
As hackers use very complex encryption mechanisms to lock servers, it’s almost impossible for the business to recover their assets on their own. And since hackers use anonymous crypto wallets for the ransom transactions, money is extremely hard to trace (although not impossible, as the Colonial Pipeline case suggests).
There are many ways in which hackers can gain unauthorised access to deploy malware – from phishing (sending fraudulent emails aiming at tricking users to disclose login details and payment details) to social engineering (using different ploys to trick a user into revealing sensitive information – including using their public social media data).
How to make sure your company’s covering cybersecurity essentials?
While all companies need to protect their operational information and processes, companies that deal with sensitive customer data must be even more alert. Such companies tend to be the targets of the bigger portion of cybercrimes due to the pressure users can exert on the company to pay the ransom. This includes businesses that operate medical services, governmental entities, insurance companies, retailers who operate online payments, and more (more or less, any business with a digital footprint).
For these companies to operate securely several prerequisites must be met:
- Network and application security refers to processes that ensure the whole setup is secure and all devices within the network are protected. For businesses that use on-premises solutions to host their operations, this means investing in the latest hardware and software, regular security patches and an IT team to monitor all critical operations. For businesses that rely on cloud technologies, this means choosing a trusted provider of cloud services and making sure encryption protocols are met with all operations – the so-called informational security.
- Operational security is of paramount importance, too – giving users only the access levels they need will help narrow down the possibilities of malware attacks due to negligence. Especially now, when many workers are choosing home office, malware attacks exploiting remote access have become increasingly popular.
- Even if all types of security guidelines are followed there remains a chance for a hacker to break in the systems via unknown holes in security that need to be patched. If this happens, a last line of defense are disaster recovery and business continuity policies. They dictate what should be done in a situation where critical business operations have been affected, and how to proceed to avoid major setbacks and data leaks. These measures may include robust back-up policies, back-up systems and protocols.
- One thing that many companies don’t consider is the human factor. Any employee can accidentally introduce malicious software by opening an infected email attachment or by inserting an infected USB drive. Many attacks can be avoided by end-user education about the importance of constant vigilance.
These guidelines, set up by a leading anti-virus protection provider, cover the basics of business operations security to ensure that hackers don’t find their way into the systems (or at least, not easily). Companies and cities that aim to innovate with smart solutions need to embrace security from day one – in this way, they can entwine these processes in their operations and simply revise them on a regular basis.
Businesses all over the world are coming to terms with the fact that cybersecurity is essential, no matter the size or the industry. As hackers grow bolder and more resourceful, we must evolve accordingly to stay one step ahead of them. Telelink City is invested in providing the best available security processes in all its integrations so you can rest assured your business has made the smart decision in partnering with us.