8 Steps to Take Right Now to Secure Your Business from Cyberattacks

Yuliya Valko on 11/22/2017.

The days when hackers wanted to break into your system just for fun are far gone. Along with all the benefits that come with digitalization of business and life, it is also making the global economy more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. A recent report from Lloyds of London claims that expected economic losses related to the cyber threat in the US are 53 billion dollars and in worst case can even reach 121 billion dollars. It's time to face a new reality that every hacker that is out there acts out of economical or ideological motives. It is important to understand what hackers might do to you and what could be their motivation. “You can’t protect everything equally…we have to find a way to control only what matters,” said Earl Perkins, research vice president, during the Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit 2017. Let's define, first, hackers motivation and figure out which one presents the biggest threat in your case.

Based on hackers' motivation they can be divided into 4 groups:

Political Activists (Hacktivists) are hackers that act our of political or religious believes, wanting a revenge, or simply harass their target for their own entertainment. As mentioned in the article of News @ Northeastern about this summer's massive cyber attack that crippled tens of thousands of computers at banks, hospitals, and government offices worldwide: "Initial analysis found that the attack was designed for profit, with the hackers demanding 0 in Bitcoin in exchange for unlocking victims’ screens. But further evidence now suggests that the malware was a “wiper,” designed to destroy data on targets’ storage systems regardless of whether they gave in to the monetary demand." This case is a perfect example when the hackers acted out of not purely an economical reasons, even they tried to make it look like that. Here is the full article Why Politically Motivated Cyberattacks Might Be The New Normal.

Government Agencies are hackers sponsored by states. The thing is that governments around the globe realize that nowadays it's not enough to control the air and the sea. Getting power over a cyberspace becomes more important. It often results in targeting civilians, corporations, and governments to hack accounts to release some sensitive information of politicians. Here is the case of cyber attack on British parlaiment: Cyber-attack on parliament leaves MPs unable to access emails. Another example of massive global cyber attack by a ransomware WannaCry ransomware cyber-attack 'may have N Korea link'.

Industrial espionage hackers target business organizations for economic reasons, by breaking into a rival company’s computer systems to find out what the company is up to, its confidential business data (numbers etc) or simply your customer list. Here is the case of cyber attack in Germany motivated by industrial espionage."Cyber attacks could not only lead to losses of information, but also, through delayed-action malware, trigger “silent, ticking digital time bombs” that could manipulate data and sabotage equipment, especially critical infrastructure" mentioned in the article: Germany big target of cyber espionage and attacks: government report

Organized Crime hackers are professional criminals that act on very sophisticated level to get access to vital company data. They consider that cyber attacks are much easier and less dangerous than traditional criminal pursuits. Usually they either hold a data hostage to blackmail you or aim to steal data that could be resold on a black market. Here is the case of cyber attack by organized crime hackers: Credit firm Equifax says 143m Americans' social security numbers exposed in hack. One more example of the organized crime hackers attack was the case with massive data breach at Uber, that paid hackers to delete stolen data on 57 million people and keep quite and disclosed the breach only one year after, in November 2017. Supposedly compromised data from the attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world and the personal information of about 7 million drivers as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver’s license numbers. Uber said that no social security numbers, credit card information, trip location details or other data were taken.

If you are a small or growing business don't get too relaxed by the thought that you are too small to be targeted by hackers. The biggest threats to small and growing businesses are industrial espionage and organized crime. Small business security experts advise to figure out that one thing that you need to protect, and think ahead how your business would operate if it wasn't accessible. In one of the security panel discussions of SBA, Patricia (Pat) Toth representing NIST noted: "SMBs needs to have plans, polices, and procedures in place. Not a big governmental approach; it can be as simple as policies in your employee handbook saying what they can and can't do on the internet, how to spot a phishing attack, and when to open and not open links and attachments."

What steps you can take right now to protect from cyber attacks?

  1. Move your business-critical data to a secure cloud you can trust. What makes it more secure? We have chosen to run ZeyOS platform on IBM Bluemix.

  2. Have a backup of all critical data. You can use a hard drive and store a copy somewhere safe in a separate location, but in this case a private cloud is a more secure solution cause it backs up constantly. For instance at ZeyOS even in the the worst case scenario when someone breaks into your system and removes all critical data, they can be recovered thanks to our backup system.

  3. Make sure your business software has group restriction settings. They are very important. At ZeyOS they play a major role. For instance if you have a sales agent working only on customers from Germany, you don't need to give him access to all customer base. In case a hacker breaks into sales agent's account on ZeyOS he gets access only to German market, not to all customer base of your company. It only could be done when the user is logged in. 

  4. Be conscious about opening weird emails that could be sent to your mailbox. It's the easiest way for hackers to spread the virus. Here is a good tool to check if your account or email box has been compromised in a data breach https://haveibeenpwned.com/. Change passwords regularly and don’t use the same password for different accounts. Everyone else in your company also needs to have a good understanding of cybersecurity and what the risks are for the organization.

  5. Use VPN connection to securely access a private network and share data remotely through public networks. Just like a firewall that protects your data on your computer, VPN protects it online.

  6. Benefit from various free security checks offered by different cybersecurity vendors. Here is the reference to multiple free tools for online checks on Stay Safe Online.

  7. Login management through secondary authentication providers such as LDAP  that can be used as a central directory accessible from anywhere on the network. Thanks to Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS), sensitive data can be well protected from hackers. LDAP also supports a number of back-end databases in which to store directories. This allows administrators the flexibility to deploy the database best suited for the type of information the server is to disseminate.

  8. Have an emergency plan in case your primary internet connection is lost. Set up a redundant internet connection that makes sure in case one service provider goes down the other one can back you up.

We also advise you to create a cyber security plan for your company to protect it from possible threats and have an action plan in place in case of emergencies. US companies can use Cyberplanner from FCC to create a custom planning guide quickly. It is important to admit when there is some issue that is out of your expertise and call a professional help. We hope that these couple hacks help you to create a more secure business environment for successful development and growth.