The inception of the internet has seen the world move into another dimension. It is like the era before the internet was night and the light of day that now shines is the sun we know as the internet. This innovation of connectivity brought about changes and facilities that we only saw in the movies or read in sci fi novels.
This technology has revolutionized the communication industry. Files and documents that took days to get from one place to another were now shared with a click of a button. Meetings and conferences were not delayed due to the availability of important participants. Turn the camera on and start a teleconference.
Everything grew and distances increased. Internet not only helped the corporate world but also became a means to stay connected. Crystal clear voice quality and HD video calls meant no one misses out an important event or festive occasion due to distance. Press a tab and the distance disappear.
Businesses couldn't stay far behind and they set up websites, apps, and e-stores to make the most of this wonder of a technology that we call the internet. No matter the conditions outside or the line at a store, get online and order whatever you like. Pay via credit cards and have your item deliver at your doorstep. Businesses flourish and the economy grows.
What is cyber security?
Internet encapsulates an entire world. It is like countries, cities, and neighborhoods in a virtual world. Everything that you see on the internet is part of the cyberspace. It is a virtual place where information, money, and a lot more is at stake. Like the banks, the virtual world of the internet holds money, data, and information at a much larger scale than the real world.
The virtual space and the hardware that holds all this is under threat. This cyber world needs protection and security like the real world. You don’t leave your doors unlocked, nor do you throw away your credit card, do you? You take measures to ensure that your information, property, and holdings stay safe.
Now imagine all the information on the internet was available to anyone. Personal information, credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account details and much more. The world would go crazy and no one would be safe. Accounts empty and earnings and savings vanish at the hands of those who robbed this cyberspace. The processes, tools, and measures taken to ensure that this data and details remain safe are known as cybersecurity.
The vulnerable ones
We have all heard the saying “survival of the fittest”. This does not only pertain to the world out there. It also applies to the cyberspace as well. Websites, apps, and networks are prone to cyber-attacks. What instigates these attacks are multiple factors and weaknesses. These weaknesses are not random and thus the targets of these attacks is a select class.
The Congressional Small Business committee reports that 71% of the cyber-attacks happened to small businesses. Why small business is a question we will look into. Before that, we need to know what constitutes a small business. A company or a body with manpower of around 500 is considered to be a small business. This in itself happens to be a reason that these entities are at the end of cyber-attacks.
Cyber threats to look out for Vulnerabilities
There is a reason why these small businesses are the end of these attacks. The number 71% is staggering. There is something that these small enterprises are not doing right. There are a lot of reasons why these companies are unable to protect themselves.
Not everyone or every company is self-aware of their importance and magnitude. Small companies lack self-belief and ignore their importance. They are unaware of the attention that they get. They hardly deem themselves important enough to be attacked. Why is this so? No one can say why.
One possible reason is that they don't believe that they possess anything of value. The common misconception is that the data and revenue that they have may not be valuable enough to get the wrong attention. That is not the case. There can be so many reasons for a cyber-attack. Ranging from a fluke to a targeted attack with ulterior motives.
There many reasons that enterprises neglect cybersecurity. One of those reasons is a financial constraint. No money, no protection. Some companies that do have the self-awareness of their magnitude and importance do look into their cybersecurity matters. This, however, does not mean that they take concrete steps to ensure airtight security. The lack of available capital limits their efforts to secure their assets and data. The money, however, proves to be a stumbling block and they are unable to make the desirable cybersecurity measures.
3. Dull blade
Let's say that we have a company that does not only realize its own importance but also has the financial muscle to take the necessary measures. Even this does not ensure that they are safe from a cyber-attack. What is it then that they lack?
Human is an intelligent creature but also prone to vulnerabilities. This exact creation may be the cause of a security breach. We all have friends, colleagues, and peers that are not tech savvy. They would reach out to others for asking about mobile phone options and what laptop to buy. Do you think that they will be hands-on with the complex mechanism of cybersecurity? The answer is a big no! This lack of awareness leads to many security threats. Members of the team unknowingly let a threat in and by the time anyone knows about it the damage is done. Dull blade fails to cut through!
Keeping Cyber security threats in check
Now that we know the basics of cyber-attacks, we can now proceed to some of the attacks you need to look out for. Read on to know what these attacks are and how do they work.
a) MitM attack
MitM or man-in-the-middle attack is a situation where a man attacker acquires a position in between a server and a legitimate device. This aids the attacker to only monitor but also control the connection. All the flow of the data is monitored and can be changed at will.
b) DDoS attack
A DDoS or denial of service attack overloads a system which results in breakdown. An attacker acquires a legitimate device and generates an overwhelming number of requests. The server receiving these requests has a maximum capacity when the capacity is reached it starts to lag and results in piling of the requests. The number of requests gets so high that the system stops responding.
c) Password attack
Using a password is the most commonly used technique to safeguard data, files, and other information. It is like a like used to safeguard a room or a safe. Whoever wants access to this safe will need to the key phrase which acts as the key to the lock. Simply type in the right combination and access granted!
Getting through password protection is not a fluke or a guessing game. ‘Sniffing’ or sneaking around in the right space looking for waste paper with random letters, digits or characters can be a lead.The leaked password does not limit to files or documents. It can also grant access to networks which may lead to access to the bank where all data is stored.
d) Malware attack
Before we get into what a malware attack is, let's get to know malware. It is unwanted software that sits back in your system or network. It spies on you and reports the activity to someone with bad intentions. Malware can get access to your system or network through compromised hardware, email or internet. This unwanted software is capable of multiplying and spreading on its own. All it needs is a connection and it will move out of your network via the internet.
We've established what cybersecurity is along with the major threats. This was a basic understanding of the issue. Now that we understand what it is and what the major threats are, it is now time to jump into the solutions. Here are 5 cybersecurity fundamentals:
1. Sharp blade
No two persons are the same. Their perspectives, positives, negatives, and learnings. Everything is unique. No one knows everything about everything. We all have certain shortcomings or areas that need improvement. We have already established that not everyone we know is tech savvy which is why there is a dire need for awareness and training.
That was something about tech. How about hacking and cybersecurity? Much more complicated and technical. This field requires focused learning and specific training. Those who already know the basics will also need to go through refreshers. Training and refreshers ensure that all team members have sufficient knowledge. This also updates them on the latest trends, techniques, and methods. This will keep them sharp and on their toes!
2. Complicated is good
We know how passwords work and why we use them. There's no need to go there. What we need to know at this point is that the most common and used cyber-attack is a password attack. Why? Simply because a password is the most commonly used practice to stay secure. This translates into the most desirable to hackers.
Password attacks are the single biggest cause of data loss or hacking. Passwords are vulnerable for many reasons. They can be forgotten, lost or misplaced. Let's not forget that a wild guess can also lead to a breakthrough. Guessing is a complicated method. Sniffing around the office and finding a random combination of letters, special characters, and numbers is a clear sign that it is a password.
Not everyone is tech savvy, which we have already established. This lack of awareness may lead to hidden rogue software in some hardware. Once this hardware is plugged into a device connected to an internal network, the cat is out of the bag. Network access with little to no efforts. Once a network is breached, getting passwords to other files and secure devices is not a big deal.
This iterates the importance of strong passwords. They need to be complex and should be changed every 60-90 days. Complicated passwords that get changed every 2-3 months are hard to guess and harder to break. To make things better for yourself, add another layer of security. How? Two-factor authentication. This is a password that protects your original password. This extra layer of protection helps you stay secure. Two devices, two different modes of communication and two different passwords.
What happens is that when you put in your original password, an email or a message is received which contains another password. You can only unlock the door if you have both the original password and the access to the device or account which will receive the two-factor authentication code. Complicated and safe!
3. Update is the key
We all know how antivirus updates can slow things down. What we don't comprehend is the reasons why these updates are important. Antivirus software developer collects and monitors data. This helps them make structural improvements. This is necessary to meet the requirements of the constantly evolving threats.
Every business needs antivirus technology. You need to research to know the needs and requirements. If you are unable to do so, hire an expert and know what exactly works for you. Once the antivirus installation is complete, turn on the auto-update option and ensure that it works. This will result in regular updates and airtight cybersecurity. To make things simple and cheap, look for ISPs (Internet Service Providers) that offer antivirus software with the plan you get from them. Run this by your It expert and if it works, you may not even have to spend extra.
4. Ban them all
All of us have seen those small hyperlinked texts. Usually, the text goes t.co and bit.ly. These URL shorteners are especially used in phishing emails. The user has no idea where they may lead. This in itself is a sign that something’s not right. Clicking on such links may lead to malicious content and browser may start loading it without you even noticing anything odd.
Having an antivirus or firewall may step in and block it or don't even let the page load. It is hard to predict what may happen. Why not ban them all?
5. Closed envelopes
Gone are the days when people wrote letters or sent fax. Email is what has taken over. Emails contain a bunch of information, both personal and corporate. This means of communication is both effective and vulnerable. It is a treasure bag full of goodies. The notion of free email has distracted everyone, especially US citizens, from the value of privacy. What constitutes as a secure email service should have the following features:
Service should have a feature that removes IP location and metadata information from the email while travels through the internet.
A service that uses an open source platform. It ensures compatibility, portability, and ultimate security across different technologies and platforms.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is worth considering concept in organizations as employees in this mobile era frequently visits many sites/URLs that may contain illegal content or harmful objects. When an employee clicks on any unknown email that contains destructive virus (spammers targets organizations now days), a single click may harm organization as it can infiltrate the server and could corrupt data. It is necessary to make strong BYOD policy that counts employees' social media behavior, mobile moments, secure sensitive data passing over your website with SSL Certificate, drive policy for stolen devices, etc. Overall, a company has effective mobile device management in their premise.
Nothing is constant in this evolving world. No problem is the same and hence no solution will last forever. No matter the issue at, evolution and improvement is the way forward. This is what we found to be the solution to our problem. Trying one of them will not work. Cybersecurity is a complex task and will definitely require a combination of measures to ensure safety. These solutions are a way to get you started.