Top 5 Biggest Threats for Business Data and How to Avoid Them

Biggest-Threats-for-Business-Data

We are living in the digital era where society is more technology-dependent than ever. Over the last few decades, the world has experienced massive transformation in the field of technology. This enables individuals and businesses to access and share information efficiently. However, while technology helps to improve efficiency and productivity, attackers have resorted to sophisticated techniques to compromise business data security.

Though most people assume that hackers only target large companies, the truth is that every business is at risk. It is therefore important for every business owner to protect their data against malicious attacks. Fortunately, there is a variety of data security and backup solution providers like Ottomatik.io to help you secure your business data.

Is your business data 100% safe?

Data security is a very confusing concept for most entrepreneurs.  They end up believing in exaggerated, partial truths regarding their business data security. One of the common misconceptions is thinking that their business is completely safe. The hard truth is that no system, network or device can be considered safe. Attackers are using new attack methods every other day. The best way to keep these malicious attacks at bay is to remain alert. Always update yourself on emerging business data security tactics and learn current Credit Card Fraud Detection Techniques. In this article, we will explore 5 major threats to business data and how to avoid them.

What is a Business Data Security Threat?

In reference to data security, a threat is anything that may or may not occur but has the potential to give unauthorized access to corrupt the integrity of your business data. It could be catastrophic disasters such as fire, system crashing, virus/malware infection or hacking activities, all of which can lead to losing critical data. The impact can be hard on your business as replacing your clients’ information, sensitive files, bank account information and payment details. The impact can be even greater if such information falls into the hands of malicious attackers.

Threats to your business data vary depending on the type of business and mode of operations. However, in a world where every business relies on some kind of information system for various purposes. Therefore, it is important for every business owner to learn the different threats that they face. Even better, to plan ahead to safeguard their business data. Here are some of the benefits of ensuring your data is secure:

  • To ensure business continuity

    Majority of modern businesses depend on data for their daily operation. Which means that data is one of the critical assets for the business. Whether it is your business plan, information about your products, clients or finances, losing any bit of such can bring the entire business into a standstill. This means that any threat that can lead to data being lost or inaccessible should be prevented to ensure that your business is running at all times.

  • Securing your Brand Reputation

    Customers will only buy from you if they can trust you with their sensitive information such as their credit card details. Businesses also store data about their employees and suppliers among other confidential records. Any incidental or accidental data leak may lead to loss of public trust thus ruining a reputation that you have taken years to build. Further, data breaches could result in serious legal repercussions and damage the future of your business.

  • Prevent Unnecessary Expenses

    For any business, whether small or large, any form of a data breach can be very expensive. Your business is responsible for any data theft or manipulation. This may incur costs in terms of fines, data recovery and disruption of workflow among others. A special security report by Kaspersky Lab reveals that small businesses and enterprises spend an average of $46 and $550 thousand to recover a data breach. In fact, the majority of businesses are forced to close down six months after a data attack.

Top 5 Threats to Business Data

Every business is exposed to various internal and external threats that could compromise the security of their data. These include:

The ‘Insider’ Threat

One of the biggest threats to a company’s data is its own employees. According to Verizon’s 2018 DBIR analysis, 93% of data leaks reported could be traced back to an employee’s intentional or unintentional mistake. Employees can be a security threat in two ways:

  • Rogue employees

    Disgruntled members of staff especially IT professionals with knowledge of and access to data centres and computer networks can be a serious threat to your business data.  Such employees can misuse their credentials and expertise to compromise your data.

  • Careless/ Uninformed Employees

    Another risk group of employees with the interests of the organisation at heart but make careless mistakes that could facilitate data attack. Some of the employee errors that could compromise your data are:

    • Forgetting unlocked devices which contain sensitive information in public places.
    • Visiting unauthorised/ malicious websites from the companies’ network.
    • Downloading attachments or clicking on links from a suspicious email.
    • Using weak passwords and/ or logging from any device and forgetting to log out.

How to Minimize Internal Threats

  • Terminate unused privileged accounts – Identify accounts with privileged access rights that are no longer in use and deactivate them immediately.
  • Advanced activity logging and system monitoring – Enforce the right infrastructure and protocols to monitor, log activities of every privileged account and send alerts of malicious actions. This will allow you to track the source of the attack and respond immediately to prevent the damage at an early stage.
  • Privilege access policy – Limit your staff to only access the specific pieces of data they require for their roles.
  • Training your employees regularly – Empowering your employees with knowledge on how to practice data security will minimize internal data threats. Organize regular security training sessions to teach your employees how to:
    • Use and manage strong password. You can use a password policy to ensure that all employees use complex passwords that are hard to crack.
    • Identify and avoid phishing attacks.
    • Importance of logging out after a session.
    • Detect and restrain from a malicious website.
    • Identify and report suspicious activity on their user account or device.
  • Use multifactor authentication – You can use multiple authentication elements such as smart card, retina or fingerprint reader as well as One-time-password (OTP) to verify genuine users.
  • Data encryption – Encrypting your data at every access point can prevent data breaches in the event an employee makes a careless mistake.

 

business-software-securityBusiness Software Applications.

Another common yet unsuspected threat is your software applications. Legitimate business applications can compromise your data in different ways.

  • Outdated Software

    In most cases, attackers target known unpatched security vulnerabilities/bugs to gain access to your system or data. This includes bugs with available fixes or programs that are no longer supported by the developer.

  • Software update supply chain attacks

    In this case, the attacker implants malware into genuine software at some point in the supply chain. It could be at a 3rd-party, application vendor storage or via redirection.

  • Software from untrusted sources

    Another form of attack is by implanting malware in open source libraries or distributing malicious software that disguises as a genuine program.

To prevent these threats, you need to:

  • Check and Update your Software – Developers release patches to fix any identified security vulnerability. It is the role of business owners to check for available updates and install them to minimize data threat. The best practice is to maintain a regular update/patching schedule for all your business software.
  • Uninstall Unsupported Software Versions – Check for obsolete applications that no longer have developer’s support and uninstall them. If you still need the application, look for and install the latest version or similar application from a different developer.
  • Test Software Updates – Even when updating authentic applications on your network, it is advisable to first test the updates under sandboxes or a controlled test environment to uncover suspicious behaviours.
  • Monitor your system and networks regularly – Keep an eye on your network to detect unfamiliar activity or behaviour especially after a software update
  • Use trusted software vendors if not the developer’s website – Only download and install software from trusted distribution sites or directly from the developer’s site. This minimizes the risks of introducing malicious code that could be hiding behind a legitimate software program.

 

Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)

An Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) is a situation where an attacker code enters your network system and runs quietly with access to critical information without being detected. The code may run for a long period of time stealing information such as login credentials, financial information and other sensitive business data.

With such access to critical data, the APT can get deeper into your network breaching data security. The main challenge with ATPs is that normal data security solutions such as anti-virus or firewalls cannot detect or guard your data against APT. This means that your network could still be exposed even when you have the best firewall or antivirus protection.

ATPs can enter your system network at various points including:

  • Files from external devices.
  • Network data transfer.
  • Applications of vulnerability.

Preventing ATP Attacks

  • Use of patched browser and software vulnerabilities.
  • Use SSL security to prevent ATP entry into your network.
  • Segmenting your network to easily detect suspicious activities or behaviour.
  • Implement intelligent APT protection solution to discover and intercept ATP at various levels of the network.

 

free-malware-protectionMalware and Ransomware

Malicious software has been and still is a major threat to data for both small and large businesses. Both malware and ransomware install themselves on a computer and runs silently in the background without your knowledge. Though they come in different forms, malware will generally hide and steal sensitive data from the system. Ransomware takes hostage of files by encrypting or locking them, making data inaccessible. It then threatens to delete or corrupt data unless a ransom is paid.

Spam emails and email phishing are mainly two types of threats. According to data cited in a recent Infradata report on the data security breach. Approximately 4, 000 ransomware attacks are reported every day with the situation expected to worsen with time.

Unfortunately, ransomware infects secure database systems as well as encrypted data files. This makes it hard to prevent the attack. However, there are many ways through which you can limit malware and ransomware attacks including:

Preventing Malware and Ransomware

  • Employees Training -Malware/ ransomware are injected into a network following a human activity such as downloading an infected email attachment. Therefore, it would help to educate your employees on how to avoid clicking links or attachments from unknown sources as well as the effects it can have on the company.
  • Use Advanced Malware and Virus Scanning – Scanning emails can identify unwanted programs in email attachments and block users from downloading infected files.
  • Modern Innovative Endpoint Security – Most preferably, you can use a cloud-based endpoint protection solutions.
  • Smart Data Backup – Automated remote data backup such as cloud backup can help you to frequently back up your data and restore lost data in case of a ransomware attack. However, you should format your infected data storage disk to make sure the ransomware is fully removed before restoring data. Another good practice is to store your data in replicated, multiple storage locations.

 

Advanced Technologies and Practices

New technology helps us to improve the efficiency of business operations to improve productivity. However, with new technologies, hackers have devised new attack methods to exploit any loopholes left by these innovative solutions. Some of the threats include:

  • Cloud storage applications

    Today, the amount of data within the cloud is and it remains one of the greatest storage options, which is useful for any business. However, not a secured cloud solution could be a major threat to business data. The best way to avoid cloud threats is to use data-level encryption such as AES. It contains 256 bit key encryption and exclusively retain all keys to prevent unauthorized access to data.

  • IoT threats

    Another new technology where millions of physical devices are connected to the internet. Unfortunately, most of the IoT devices are not secure and offer attackers an easy entry into the business network. You can prevent these attacks by connecting your IoT devices to a secondary network, configure each device correctly and avoid the use of default passwords.

  • Mobile devices

    The mobile industry is evolving at a high paced speed with nearly every adult in the world owning a smartphone or a tablet. Businesses are leveraging the potential on technology like BYOD. It allows employees to access organization resources from their personal devices. Unfortunately, this can expose your business to external vulnerabilities. Besides, some mobile devices are ship with pre-installed malicious apps, while there are also a host of infected apps in unofficial download platform. To prevent mobile attacks threat:

    • Implement a strong BOYD policy for your business.
    • Install a mobile anti-virus/ cyber security solutions and ensure all apps are up-to-date.
    • Educate and encourage users to only install apps from authorized app stores.

We interviewed several security industry experts on this subject. Here are their responses to our questions;

Brian Gill at Gillware says;

What do you feel are the biggest threats for business data in 2019?

Cyber criminals are the biggest threat to a businesses’ data and reputation in 2019 and beyond. The loss of productivity, expensive ransoms, embarrassing client disclosures will cost US businesses billions of dollars this year. I personally believe 2020 will be significantly worse.

What security steps do you take to ensure your business is safe from data breaches?

The C-level executives and boards need to wake up and allocate more money to cyber security initiatives. At most companies, their IT groups and managed service providers are well aware of a whole bunch of things that would improve security, but they just can’t get it done as their budgets are strangled. And they often are not in position to prioritize spending with a modern threat profile. Most companies would benefit from a third party risk assessment, followed up with a CISO as a service to help prioritize initiatives and give ongoing, product-agnostic advice on security spending. As far as the nuts and bolts go, many businesses have poor documentation on IT assets.

Hard to know what to protect if they don’t even have an asset management strategy, which is common. Work needs to be done to get beyond passwords with dramatically improved authentication with 2FA or 3FA everywhere. Internal user permissions are often a mess with too many God-Mode users. Backups are often out of date, incomplete, rarely or never having been audited for completeness. Those backups are often on the same network infrastructure so in today’s world that means there’s a decent chance a hacker is going to smash those too. They completely lack a 2-page disaster plan, a 1-page incident response plan, and they don’t have an IR firm on retainer. So, in the middle of the breach they are going to be reading a 4 year old 200+ page disaster plan, restoring from backups for the first time in a long time, and perhaps trying to source a vendor. Not the greatest position to be in.

Ultimately, my belief is it comes down to the non-IT people, the CFOs and CEOs and board members need to bone up on many things cyber, dramatically raise IT budgets for a few years, or their company is also going to be in the news. This is a very simple pay now or pay more later situation. Most CEOs and CFOs are choosing the embarrassing pay later option at the moment.

How do you train staff to ensure your business is kept safe?

Social engineering training is great and better than nothing, but I would advocate for an investment in systems to help employees go without passwords as authentication, 2FA or 3FA or U2F everywhere, dramatically increased spend on email screening and security. It’s so much easier to prevent a phishing attack by heading it off at the pass, or something like a Yubikey not being fooled in the first place.

Robert Siciliano, Cybersecurity & ETFMG Market Segment Expert mentions;

What do you feel are the biggest threats for business data in 2019?

Ransomware. Far too many organizations are functioning in a tech environment lacking the basics in data protection This means they are utilizing older hardware which doesn’t support newer more robust software, leaving the data residing on the device vulnerable to various exploits.

What security steps do you take to ensure your business is safe from data breaches?

Upgrade hardware, update software, including operating systems, browsers and all the other various software tools utilized on a daily or annual basis. Backing up is essential when thwarting a ransom threat. In other words, even if the device and its data is compromised but there are multiple redundant back ups both locally and in the cloud that have not been affected by the ransom software, then getting the data back is a non-issue.

How do you train staff to ensure your business is kept safe?

Security awareness training comes in many flavors. The most optimal way to engage revolves around an initial live presentation that involves dialogue, Q&A, and ongoing audience participation. From there phishing simulation is a must, but only when phishing simulation training is followed up by education opposed to scorning the user.

Micro e-learning is the best way to maintain an ongoing security awareness training program that keeps the users informed, little bits at a time to keep them on top of what is new and ahead of what is next at all times regarding security and threats.

Javvad Malik, Security Awareness Advocate for KnowBe4 has provided the following insight:;

What do you feel are the biggest threats for business data in 2019?

There are a multitude of threats that companies face, almost too many to count. Quite often, asking ‘what’ the threats are isn’t as useful as asking ‘how’ the threats materialize.

When we examine the how, we see that by far the two most common avenues of attack are to attack the human, in social engineering (deceiving people), or through unpatched software. For example, ransomware is frequently spread through phishing emails.

What security steps do you take to ensure your business is safe from data breaches?

It is easy toromanticize the idea that attackers will use extremely advanced methods to infect systems, but in reality, it’s often using tried and tested ways. So, in order to stay safe from data breaches, companies should adhere to the fundamentals of security such as patching software, maintaining an accurate asset inventory, ensuring security reviews are built into processes, training their employees and so forth. It’s worth noting that while these are all fundamental practices, they are by no means simple, so, a measured and realistic approach should be taken after considering what are the most critical assets, or the most important data worth protecting.

How do you train staff to ensure your business is kept safe?

Training staff is not a one-time thing. Rather it is an ongoing, regular, and continuous process of awareness training. However, in the long run, focus needs to be broader than just awareness and look to change the security culture of a company.

Just because an employee is aware, it doesn’t mean they care. Which is why security culture needs to be embedded across three dimensions of trust and integrity of axioms (what you believe in), actions (how you behave), and assumptions (what people think you believe in). To do this takes time, and requires constant nudges to encourage people to move in the right direction, and focus on changing 2 or 3 behaviors at any one time.

Biggest Threats for Business Data: Summary

In the modern digital world, data is one of the most valuable assets that most businesses cannot do without. It is therefore important to ensure data availability and integrity at all times to ensure business continuity. Your data may get lost because of physical damage, user mistakes or malicious attacks. Understanding the above threats to business data and to avoid them is a critical step to enhance data security.

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