As the techniques and technologies of cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is a growing need for businesses of all sizes to secure IT networks with effective cybersecurity strategies.
However, cybersecurity is not as scary as mainstream media make out. Fencing off your business perimeters does not need to be overly expensive either. There are cost-effective ways of protecting your business network.
It’s telling that 95% of data breaches are due to human error. Successful cyberattacks typically occur because an employee downloaded a file or app infected with malware, clicked on a malicious link, or set up cloud software incorrectly.
Given so many data breaches are caused by your employees, it makes sense to provide cyber awareness training. If your workforce is aware of the tools and tactics hackers use, they know what to look out for and are able to spot suspicious emails.
Cybercrime is growing in prevalence. In 2019, the BBC reported cybersecurity firms had recorded a “sharp increase”. At the time, more than 60% of UK firms reported one or more attacks. One cybersecurity firm reports 88% of UK firms were attacked in 2024.
It is thought that British firms are hit by more cyber attacks and GDPR data breaches than other countries in Europe. This is mostly due to London being recognized as a major financial hub, but there are a variety of factors that leave certain businesses more vulnerable to breaches than others.
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How Do Hackers Target Businesses
Because the tools hackers use are digital, cyberattacks can usually be countered by cybersecurity technology. Modern cyber solutions actually do a very good job of protecting a business network.
The majority of malicious malware used to attack the majority of businesses are known viruses. Anti-virus software and other cybersecurity defenses built into various apps used by businesses are able to identify malicious code that is “known” and isolate threats in a secure chamber.
Theoretically, a data breach shouldn’t happen to the average business. Security breaches are usually high-profile corporations that have been targeted by crack hackers that use sophisticated software and techniques. New data breaches are less rare but becoming more common.
However, large swathes of small businesses are falling victim to hackers – simply because their staff is unaware of the threat. Educating your employees on how to identify and deal with a potential cyberattack should be on your list of priorities.
Employees Present the Biggest Security Threat
Because technology performs such a good job of stopping cybercriminals, hackers target employees. Your workforce is the weakest link – especially if they are not aware of how malicious threats are orchestrated.
Employees are targeted because they are more likely to download a file or click on a link that enables hackers to infiltrate a computer network and access sensitive data.
Other weak links are weak passwords, misconfigured cloud applications, and the mishandling of sensitive data. For example, Gloucester police were fined £80,000 because an email was sent out exposing the email address of all recipients. The sender had not entered the recipient’s contact details into the bcc field.
Threat actors are also creating more sophisticated social engineering techniques. Spoof phishing, whaling, and spear phishing are all becoming more difficult to identify, but not impossible.
Sneaky phishing techniques typically involve spoofing an email to look like a legitimate business the target is associated with; i.e a bank, Amazon or utility company.
Whaling attacks target senior executives. Hackers pretend to be an investor, a bank, or a compliance company that poses as a senior member of that particular company and instructs the target – usually an account holder – to transfer money or send sensitive information by email – accept the email address is the hackers and not the actual person they are imitating.
Spear phishing works in a similar way to whaling but targets employees lower down the pyramid. Here, threat actors pretend to be senior executives and will either email the target or even phone them up using voice distortion technology that sounds like the person they are imitating.
Remote Workers have become a favorite target for hackers this year. Home networks are not as secure as a business network and there is a higher chance that a distributed workforce will be accessing a business network on a personal device.
What Can Businesses Do To Educate Employees?
Regardless of the size of your business, providing employees with cybersecurity training should be a priority. If your staff is aware of how to identify cyberattacks, there is less risk of falling victim to malicious actors.
Implementing cybersecurity protocols should also be a priority. Some restrictions may not go down well with all your employees but if they are aware of the dangers they may be more understanding.
Firms that allow employees to use their own devices to access their business network should restrict how much the device can be used for personal use. At the very least, you can purchase reputable antivirus software for employees to install on their personal devices.
The majority of cyberattacks come via email. These so-called ‘phishing’ emails are easy to spot if you know the red flags to look out for. Training your staff about social engineering strategies will eliminate a large percentage of threats.
It’s also worth including information about data protection laws in a cybersecurity training program. Compliance is arguably responsible for why so many small businesses close following a data breach.
Because firms are obligated to report a data breach to affected parties, small firms can lose up to 83% of their customers. If your business close, your employees won’t have any income.
Informing your employees how cybercriminals orchestrate cyberattacks helps to eliminate the largest percentage of threats coming into a business. After technology, your employees are the second line of defense. If this layer of cybersecurity is not strengthened by knowledge, it could spell the end of your business.