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Cyber Security 101: A Business Mini-Guide to Cyber Security for 2024

Cyber security is a hot topic today and often shows up on the headlines. In recent years a range of organisations and even national governments have fallen prey to cyber threats.

Collectively, cybercrime is estimated to cost the world a staggering eight trillion dollars in 2023. To put that into context, that’s more than three times the total economic output of the UK each year!

Even the biggest companies can and do fall victim to cyber attacks of various kinds, but what about SMEs? Those who often do not reach the news headlines, but often lack many accessible defences that can prevent attacks from breaching them, and even if they do, greatly mitigate their impact.

The best place to start is with a solid understanding of today’s cyber threats, the tools that exist to counter them, and the role of cyber security experts in bridging the gaps between technical barriers and the protection of businesses data and systems.

This piece gives you a short and practical guide to help you to do just this. Let’s get into it!

Cyber Attacks in 2023: Who Gets Attacked and How?

There are a few key things you should know about how cyber threats work today:

    1. Cyber criminals target organisations of all sizes

Cyber criminals work together using the dark web to exchange data and attack tools, and there are tools that they can use to automate attacks such as phishing emails and exploiting network vulnerabilities at scale.

While all industries are being targeted, some sectors fall relatively more under the crosshairs of attackers than others; they include finance, transportation and logistics, professional services, and healthcare among others.

    1. The Most Common Forms of Cyber Attack Are Phishing, DDoS and Ransomware

According to Nordlayer, the three most common forms of cyber attack facing businesses, are phishing, distributed denial of service (DDoS) and ransomware attacks. We will focus on these three types of attack and what you can do to prevent them later in this guide.

A key factor involved in the vast majority of successful cyber attacks, is that they are linked to human error. As you look to secure your business, you will want to consider the cyber hygiene of your team and user accounts, and how well protected your team’s inboxes and devices are for example.

    1. Businesses Lack Access to Cyber Security Experts

The demand for cyber security expertise is rising more quickly than the number of specialists that can help. Many businesses lack this kind of expertise in their internal IT departments, and instead will access this expertise via a managed services provider.

    1. Attacks Are Rising, but are Probably Being Under-Reported

According to ISACA’s 2023 State of Cybersecurity Report, there has been a 48% jump in organisations reporting cyber attacks. More disturbingly, there is a widespread and understandable belief that attacks are being under-reported, due to factors such as brands wishing to protect their reputation.

The news headlines are just the tip of an iceberg; many businesses learn only too late about the reality of cyber risks, after probability materialises into reality.

    1. AI is Reshaping Cyber Security

Intelligent tools that use machine learning algorithms are increasingly being used to protect business networks and systems, improving in real time from threat intelligence sources and security data. Conversely, it’s also true that cybercriminals are using advanced AI to crack login credentials and to test network vulnerabilities for example.

As AI takes off into widespread use in a range of areas, taking the steps to apply essential cyber defences as well as more advanced tools to protect your business will become more important and mainstream as time goes on.

For Securing Your Business in 2024, We Have Three Key Pieces of Advice:

  • Take a proactive stance towards your cyber security
  • Implement essential cyber defences in your business to counter threats
  • Work with experts to secure your business and develop your cyber security posture

Taking The Reigns: Getting Proactive About Your Cyber Security

The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is quite apt for describing what proactive cyber security means here. Proactive cyber security can look like implementing regular security audits, including cyber security measures in your technology roadmap and IT strategy, and working with IT support providers to stay ahead of potential threats.

A truly proactive approach entails regularly reviewing your security vitals and posture, planning improvements, and then implementing them; making this a continuous process for your business.

Discover Your Cyber Security Posture: Get A Free Cyber Security Assessment Today

Our cyber security assessment gives you invaluable insight into your business’s cyber security posture, including vulnerabilities and gaps across your network and devices. That’s not all, it gives you actionable steps that you can use to shore up your security posture going forward. To book your free assessment, simply get in touch with us today and we’ll gladly take you through the next steps.

The Top Three Cyber Threats in 2023 and Essential Defences to Combat Them

Your inboxes, network, and devices are among the key entry points that cyber attackers can use to try to compromise your systems and data. Here’s how to secure them against the most common cyber threats at play today:

1. Phishing

Phishing is where cybercriminals pose as a trusted organisation or person and send deceptive emails or messages that make a request. This could include login details, sensitive emails, or to make a payment.

Phishing attacks range in their sophistication, they aren’t all obvious and riddled with spelling and grammar errors! Many of them can be very convincing and subtle, they are getting better over time, and if your users aren’t prepared with the know-how to identify them, it could lead to the compromise of your business.

Key Defences against Phishing:

    • Employee Training: Educate your team to recognise phishing attempts and to follow cyber security best practices.
    • Phishing Simulations: There are software solutions that enable you to simulate phishing attacks on your team to test their awareness and responses. These tools can also train your team based on their responses.
    • Email Filters: There are email filtering tools you can apply to catch phishing emails and prevent them from reaching your team’s inboxes.
    • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds an additional layer of login security that can keep your business secure, even if a user’s credentials get compromised.

2. Ransomware

As the name implies, ransomware attacks are done with the intention of compelling a business or individual to make a ransom payment. Ransomware itself is a type of malware that prevents access to data and systems by encrypting them, with this being used as leverage to demand a payment for its release.

Ransomware is quite like a virus, in that it needs to enter a host (e.g a network device) and spread from there. With a great cyber immune system, you can prevent ransomware from causing harm to your business.

Key Defences Against Ransomware:

    • Regular Backups: Use a backup and recovery solution to backup your data so that it can be swiftly restored if it is ever needed. This enables you to significantly side-step ransomware threats.
    • Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems: This software is able to detect threats and anomalies within your network and respond to them in real time, helping you to thwart ransomware and other cyber threats.
    • Antivirus Software: If you do not have antivirus software installed across your workplace devices, this step can make a great difference for your business.
    • Access Controls: Limit access to sensitive data and systems to only those who need it, this can help to mitigate the reach of ransomware in your network and systems.

3. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service)

DDoS attacks attempt to overload a business network or website with a large amount of traffic from multiple sources, attempting to flood them and make them inaccessible. These attacks focus more on causing disruption on the whole; their motivations can include vandalism, business competition, and even ideological disputes.

For example, a business may have a competitor conduct a DDoS attack on them, or if your organisation works closely with the NHS, it may find itself falling under the scope of a wider DDoS attack on the NHS’s network.

Key Defences against DDoS:

    • Network Security Tools: Implement tools like firewalls and anti-DDoS software.
    • Traffic Monitoring: Regularly monitor network traffic for unusual spikes.
    • Redundant Network Resources: Have backup resources to mitigate the impact of an attack.

Seven Key Pillars of Cyber Security for Businesses

You can effectively sum up the key aspects of cyber security into six key pillars, as your business gets proactive about its security, ensuring that you address each, will give you the multiple layers of 360 protection that are essential in today’s world.

Risk Management

In a nutshell, this involves finding, understanding and then acting to mitigate the cyber risks your business faces. This isn’t just about cyber-attacks, but also about risks that can arise due to hardware malfunctions for example.

Undertaking risk assessments, network audits, vulnerability scans are among the key measures for finding, understanding and then mitigating your cyber risks.

User Security

Your people are perhaps your most important variable for keeping your business secure. As discussed, most cyber incidents are linked to user behaviours. Train your users about cyber security best practices, and how to recognise phishing and business email compromise attacks using training sessions or phishing simulation tools to shore up this key pillar.

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

IAM is about ensuring that only authorised people and parties can access specific apps, data and features in your organisation’s IT environment. This involves verifying their identity through measures like MFA, giving role-based access control across your software and managing user and device permissions.

Network Security

This pillar focuses on protecting your business’s network infrastructure from the compromise of its data, services and systems. They may exploit vulnerabilities in software or hardware that is not up to date, or unsecured internet connections for example.

Defences to consolidate your network security include applying firewalls, ensuring secure network access by using VPNs and ensuring public Wi-fi networks are not used for work purposes for example.

Data Security and Privacy

Protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data is at the beating heart of cyber security. This pillar involves securing data through using methods such as encryption of data and files in storage or in transit (I.e via email), using data loss prevention (DLP) strategies, and enforcing secure data storage and movement methods are in use.

Device Security

Device security is about securing the nodes of your network, the laptops, desktops, mobile phones, servers, and routers that your business uses. Solutions for this include implementing regular software updates and patches, securely configuring devices, and as discussed, installing antivirus software.

Incident Response and Recovery

As we’ve seen, no business can attain 100% assured security, so it’s important to also have a plan for responding to security incidents, which can greatly mitigate their impact. This pillar involves creating an incident response plan for different scenarios, as well as implementing a robust data backup and recovery solution for your business and testing it regularly.

How IT Support Providers Enhance Business Cyber Security

IT support providers such as our own in London often play a crucial role in ensuring the cyber security of businesses across a range of sizes. For any growing business, becoming the target of a cyber-attack is not a matter of if, but when.

IT support providers offer a range of services to ensure business cyber security according to the six key pillars we discussed. They can:

    • Secure your workplace and network devices
    • Manage network security and implement monitoring systems
    • Conduct audits of your IT environment to uncover vulnerabilities
    • Roll out access controls and identity management measures
    • Systematically keep your software and hardware up to date
    • Implement a data backup and recovery solution
    • Help you to protect data in alignment with regulations such as GDPR
    • Help you to keep your IT and cyber security aligned with business growth
    • And much more!

In a nutshell, IT support providers are able to ensure your security, while doing the leg-work for your business, saving time, money and energy, while enabling your business to focus on its core services and enjoy peace of mind.

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide has been helpful for understanding the cyber landscape today, the most common threats, and how you can start addressing them. An IT support provider can play an invaluable role by translating technical barriers into both security and competitive advantages for your business.

In any case, the most important thing is taking a proactive approach to cyber security and continually improving it, helping your business to stay secure both today, and tomorrow. Stay tuned for our next blog, which will dive into how IT support providers can unlock the door to comprehensive cyber security for SMEs, while making it easy for them!

Net Platforms: Transformative IT for Businesses Across London and The Southeast

Need secure, optimised and reliable IT that supports your operations and drives your growth? Netplatforms can help. We help organisations across London and the Southeast to thrive and grow in our digital age, with tailored tech solutions that deliver measurable results, and IT management and support that prioritises proactivity. Ready to take the next step in your digital transformation? Get in touch with us today. We’d love to hear from you  and help you overcome your technology challenges.