Cybersecurity for businesses: key threats and essential cybersafety tips to boost your defense

Cybersecurity for businesses

When it comes to keeping their organization’s networks and data safe, CIOs can’t catch a break. According to Fortinet’s 2023 Cybersecurity Skills Gap report, 84% of organizations experienced one or more breaches in the past 12 months, up from 80% in 2021. Business email compromise attacks, Verizon’s latest Data Breach Investigations Report found, have almost doubled to make up more than 50% of all incidents within the social engineering category.

In another study, 57% of companies that experienced a cybersecurity incident in the previous year described the impact as severe or moderate. To top it all off, data breaches now come with an eye-watering 4.45-million-dollar bill on average, according to IBM. Such incidents are viewed as the number one risk in today’s business environment, Forbes concludes. And with cloud technologies and remote work on the rise, things aren’t likely to get easier any time soon.

Understanding the whats, whys and hows of IT security in business is crucial for defending a company’s reputation, finances and customer trust. In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into the importance and benefits of cybersecurity in business operations. More specifically, how implementing robust IT security measures, such as encryption, firewalls and access controls, can help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data and mitigate the risk of data breaches.

Why cybersecurity is important for business: 10 potential threats and consequences

  1. Data breaches: Such incidents occur when unauthorized individuals gain access to sensitive business data like customer information, trade secrets, employee records, and intellectual property.
  2. Financial losses: Cyberattacks often lead to direct monetary losses, from theft of financial information through ransomware pay-offs to the disruption of day-to-day business operations.
  3. Reputational damage: Trust is paramount in business relationships. A cyberattack can shatter consumer confidence and damage a company’s reputation, impacting its ability to acquire and retain customers.
  4. Regulatory fines: Non-compliance with data protection regulations due to a cyberattack can result in substantial fines and penalties. HIPAA non-compliance, for example, can cost up to $50,000 per violation.
  5. Legal consequences: Companies may face lawsuits from customers or business partners who have been negatively affected by a breach, leading to legal expenses and potential compensation payouts.
  6. Operational disruption: Cyberattacks can cause severe operational disruption, leading to a significant loss of productivity and service downtime as well as major project delays and supply chain shortages.
  7. Cost of recovery: Post-attack, companies have to bear the cost of fixing vulnerabilities, recovering lost data, restoring systems and implementing stronger security measures to prevent future attacks.
  8. Decreased employee productivity: In the wake of a cyberattack, employee productivity might decline with staff focusing their time and energy on recovery efforts instead of regular tasks.
  9. Increase in insurance premiums: Businesses who fall victim to cyber breaches are often deemed more risky to insure by insurance providers. Higher risk perception, however, also means higher insurance premiums.
  10. Loss of competitive advantage: When a company’s proprietary information falls into the wrong hands, competitors can gain access to sensitive data and replicate products or services to weaken its market position.

Cybersecurity for small businesses: 12 factors that make SMEs more vulnerable

While no organization is immune to cyber threats, limited in-house security expertise and resources can make small and medium-sized companies especially attractive to hackers. In fact, Accenture’s Cost of Cybercrime Study revealed that 43% of cyberattacks are levied against small businesses – yet only 14% are adequately prepared to fend them off. Let’s have a closer look at all the factors that put small businesses at a higher risk of cybersecurity breaches.

  • Limited resources: Small businesses often operate on tight budgets, which may prevent them from investing in advanced cybersecurity solutions.
  • Lack of awareness: In many cases, small businesses aren’t fully aware of the potential cyber threats they face or the consequences of a cyberattack.
  • Insufficient training: Employees in small businesses don’t always receive adequate training to recognize and prevent potential cyber threats.
  • Outdated systems: Due to limited resources, small businesses may use outdated or unsupported technology, which is more vulnerable to attacks.
  • Lax security practices: Without a dedicated IT team, critical security practices like regular software updates and password hygiene are often overlooked.
  • Supply chain vulnerabilities: Small businesses can also be targeted as a way to gain access to larger businesses within the same supply chain.
  • Data concentration: Small businesses often store all their data in a single location, making it a high-value target for cybercriminals.
  • Delayed detection: In lieu of cybersecurity personnel, breaches often go unnoticed in small enterprises until significant damage has been done.
  • Insufficient backup practices: Not all small businesses prioritize regular data backups, which leaves them vulnerable in case of a ransomware attack.

How to protect your business from cyberattacks: 10 cybersecurity tips

Is your cybersecurity checklist complete? Here are 20 essential cybersecurity safety tips for 2023 to keep businesses of all sizes and sectors protected.

1. Update regularly

Keeping all enterprise systems, software, and applications up-to-date is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and security. Regular updates often include patches for fixing known security vulnerabilities, ensuring that your networks, programs, devices, and data are fortified against potential threats and exploits such as viruses and other malware.

2. Educate employees

Conducting regular training sessions on cybersecurity best practices is essential for creating a culture of awareness and vigilance within your organization. Staff should be kept up-to-date on the risks associated with phishing emails, rogue websites, and unsecured networks so they can make informed decisions and take necessary precautions to prevent breaches.

3. Use strong passwords

Encouraging the use of secure passwords is a fundamental step in enhancing cybersecurity. A strong password should consist of a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Consider implementing a password manager to facilitate the creation and management of strong passwords, reducing the risk of password compromise.

4. Enable two-factor authentication

Wherever possible, enabling two-factor authentication, or 2FA for short, adds an extra layer of security to your accounts and systems. By requiring a secondary method of verification, such as a unique code sent to a registered device, two-factor authentication significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access, even if passwords are stolen or hacked.

5. Install antivirus software

Using reliable and regularly updated antivirus software is crucial for detecting and mitigating the risks associated with spyware, ransomware, and other malicious software. Make sure that your antivirus software is configured to run regular scans, providing real-time protection against emerging threats before they turn into a full-blown cyberattack.

6. Be wary of email scams

Educating staff about the dangers of unsolicited emails, particularly those requesting sensitive information, is key to preventing phishing attacks and data breaches. People within your organization should be trained to recognize common indicators of email scams, such as suspicious senders, urgent or unusual requests, and grammatical errors.

7. Back data up regularly

Regularly backing up critical data ensures that in the event of a security breach, you can restore business operations faster, cutting downtime and potential financial losses. The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recommends following the “3-2-1 rule.” That is, keep 3 copies of any important file on 2 different media types with 1 copy stored offsite.

8. Secure physical access

While cybersecurity primarily focuses on online threats, the significance of physical security measures shouldn’t be overlooked. Preventing unauthorized physical access to computers and sensitive areas by implementing access control systems, surveillance cameras, and secure workspaces is key to safeguarding sensitive information and preventing data breaches.

9. Secure Wi-Fi networks

“Internet-connected devices may be used by nefarious entities to collect personal information, steal identities, compromise financial data, and silently listen to – or watch – users,” warns CISA. Implement encryption protocols such as WPA2, use strong passwords for Wi-Fi access, and hide the network name (SSID) to deter unauthorized access and protect sensitive data transmitted over the network from interception.

10. Limit access

Adopting the principle of least privilege (POLP) is crucial for minimizing the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive information. By granting access to information and systems on a need-to-know basis, you can mitigate the potential damage caused by insider threats and unauthorized access attempts, enhancing your overall cybersecurity posture.

11. Create a cybersecurity policy

A well-defined cybersecurity policy serves as a roadmap for maintaining a secure work environment and mitigating potential risks. It does so by providing clear guidelines and expectations for workers regarding data privacy, secure password creation, the use of company-owned devices and procedures to follow in case of a security incident.

12. Implement a VPN

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for internet connections adds an extra layer of security by creating a private tunnel for data, particularly when employees are working remotely or accessing sensitive information outside of the office environment. A VPN encrypts data transmitted over public networks, protecting it from interception and unauthorized access.

13. Monitor network

Regularly monitoring your network for any unusual or suspicious activity is vital for detecting and responding to potential cybersecurity incidents. Implementing comprehensive network monitoring tools and establishing incident response protocols enables early detection, rapid response and containment of security breaches, minimizing potential damage.

14. Cybersecurity insurance

Cybersecurity insurance serves as a safety net, providing financial protection against the potentially crippling costs of cyberattacks. It may cover the immediate financial losses incurred from business interruption, data recovery, and system repairs, along with a range of legal fees, including defense costs and settlements, and the costs of PR and customer notification efforts.

15. Delete unnecessary data

Holding onto every piece of data not only consumes storage resources but also increases the potential attack surface for cybercriminals. Plus, it also goes against the principles of privacy regulations like the GDPR. Regularly review and purge outdated or unneeded data to keep your business’s data inventory lean – and less attractive to cybercriminals.

16. Secure mobile devices

With the dramatic rise in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy adoptions and mobile device usage by remote workers over unsecured networks, it’s crucial to implement robust mobile security measures such as password protection, biometric authentication and end-to-end data encryption to ensure the integrity and security of enterprise systems and data.

17. Have a response plan

In today’s interconnected digital landscape, a single breach can have far-reaching effects in a short span of time. A clear and comprehensive incident response can minimize the impact of such events by outlining the necessary steps to be taken, including who to contact, how to contain the breach, how to communicate with stakeholders and how to recover and restore normal operations as quickly as possible.

How Tresorit can help you keep data risks at bay and cloud collaboration productive

A zero-knowledge, end-to-end encrypted cloud storage and collaboration platform, Tresorit empowers you to:

Protect users and assets in the cloud with E2E encryption

Every file and relevant metadata on our users’ devices are encrypted with randomly generated encryption keys. Accessing files is only possible with a user’s unique decryption key that no one else, not even Tresorit, has knowledge of. Meaning that even if our servers were breached, no one would be able to read their contents.

Keep access secure and limited

Monitor and decide which devices are allowed to access which files and from where users are allowed to log in to their company account to safeguard business-critical documents. Manage files and tresors at a granular level to ensure they’re only accessible to those who need them and limit downloads or revoke access at any time.

Stay in control of what happens to your data

Implement data protection measures, including controlling who has access to what data, logging file activities, and creating internal security policies for data management. No file content can be modified without you knowing about it, thanks to cryptographic authentication applied to all encrypted data in the form of HMAC or AEAD.

Set up and enforce enterprise security policies in one place

Make sure that everyone on your team is on the same page when it comes to using crucial data security tools and processes. Apply policy templates, including 2-step verification, IP filtering, timeout policies, and sharing policies, create different policies for each template and modify them at any moment through a single interface.

Encrypt attachments automatically in Gmail and Outlook

Empower your teams to work efficiently and send encrypted emails by integrating Tresorit with Google Workspace or Azure Active Directory and Office 365. The add-ins offer a fast and easy way for users to replace risky email attachments with encrypted share links and password-protected files using their existing email addresses.