By Bahar Ferguson
With so many cyberattacks in the headlines lately, I want to emphasize the importance of cybersecurity. Our ability to do basic tasks relies on having a safe cyberspace to work in. Day-to-day activities such as opening your emails or entering your password can lead to vulnerabilities.
It’s the responsibility of every single individual, from the executives to the temp workers, to protect a company’s intellectual property. Every day, these attacks get more sophisticated and refined,so you should be taking every opportunity to review and mitigate any vulnerabilities you may have.
There are numerous ways hackers can trick you into divulging information that should remain within your company. “Phishing” is a common attack I’m sure everyone has seen at some point in their life. Phishing consists of fraudulent email that is sent impersonating reputable individuals or companies with the intent to induce you into revealing confidential information. “Spoofing” is the term used when hackers try to forge emails or websites for these phishing attempts. They will create fake websites that look like a login screen to steal your credentials or they will alter the email header so it looks like you’re being emailed from someone you know.
A common virus hackers use is a ransomware virus that will encrypt all your files on a computer or network and you must pay to “unlock” your data. These are just a few examples and not an exhaustive list of all the many forms of cyberattacks, but it can give you an idea of what threats are out there.
No matter who you are, you are a potential target of these attacks. The attacks can be big like the Equifax hack that resulted in 147 million Americans’ data being stolen. The big attacks are often the ones that get publicized, but small businesses are also a target. Attacks can be devastating to a small business that may not be able to afford a ransom. You can find countless examples of small businesses shutting down or having a massive scale-down because of these cyberattacks.
After you’ve fallen victim to one of these attacks, the recovery can be almost impossible and very costly. For example, the ransomware attack on the city of Atlanta in 2018 ended up costing more than $2.6 million and they still lost 10 years of data. Monetary risks aside, think about the impact something like this can have on your reputation. Are consumers still going to trust you with any of their information after seeing your name come up in one of these headlines?
There are so many different options when it comes to mitigating risks, it can be difficult to sort through everything. It's important to make sure your IT team is on top of learning about the latest attacks and different ways to combat them. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has a set of guidelines that are a great place to start for knowing what you need to do to be secure.
It may be worth it to hire IT consultants to evaluate your network security. Any money you spend on preventive steps will save you immeasurably in the future. It’s important to remember you can never be too secure — even one small vulnerability left unaddressed can lead to dire consequences.
Bahar Ferguson is president of Wasatch I.T., a Utah provider of outsourced IT services for small and medium-sized businesses.