Are you taking enough steps to secure data? Top hacker attacks businesses should look for
Rapid technological developments in recent years have presented businesses with a wealth of opportunities...
Rapid technological developments in recent years have presented businesses with a wealth of opportunities when it comes to modernizing the way they operate. From cloud environments to the Internet of Things to cryptocurrencies, there has never been a more exciting - nor crucial - time for companies looking to revisit their infrastructure. Yet these developments also come with risks, as an increasingly digital presence also provides plenty of vulnerabilities that hackers are just waiting to exploit. What are the most common attacks faced by businesses – and how can they protect themselves against them?
Why safeguarding data is important
In order for a company to be able to effectively defend itself in the face of hacker attacks, it needs to first realize what hackers are after. And the answer, more often than not, is pretty straightforward: your data. Data has been celebrated as the currency of the new millennium – and very rightly so. With data analytics on the rise, it has become the most valuable tool across a wide array of industries, from advertising to entertainment to banking. But with cybercrime on the rise, more and more businesses are realizing the importance of data security. Implementing data security measures first and foremost allows companies to avoid unnecessary financial damage deriving from having rediverted resources to mitigate the consequences of a data breach. It also helps them comply with privacy regulations, like HIPAA, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (which also applies to enterprises based outside but operating in conjunction with the EU), or the PCI DSS requirements.
There is one aspect - perhaps the most important - that is often overlooked when deciding how much to invest in an internal data security plan: protecting personal data to the highest level further helps in gaining and retaining client trust. After so much debate about the importance of safeguarding personal data, customers are becoming increasingly concerned with how big organizations handle and protect their personal details – especially when it comes to sensitive information like banking or health data. In this context, they value companies that take active steps to make sure that their clients' personal data is safe with them. Customers are likely to abandon a brand if they realize that a data breach has occurred – especially if it has affected them directly. This means lost revenue for a company and new clients for its competitors, which at the end of the day is just bad business. Being proactive makes sense financially on several levels – brand value and reputation included.
The most common attacks companies face
But what exactly are businesses up against? Unfortunately, cutting-edge tech can cut both ways, and while it may help build defenses it can also help hackers tear them down. E-commerce has experienced immense growth in recent years as consumers turn to e-shops for literally everything, from clothes or electronics to grocery shopping. In early 2019, industry leader Amazon surpassed Microsoft to become the world's largest public company in terms of value, reaching $797 billion and leaving Microsoft behind at $783 billion. Google's parent company Alphabet was back in third place on $748 billion. With e-shopping gaining so much ground, it is no wonder that a whopping percentage of online merchants have reported theft of payment data. 21% of companies in Asia and 18% of enterprises in the Americas have disclosed that payment data was stolen from them. Europe claims the first spot at 26%, well above the 22% average.
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Phishing is still a firm favorite with hackers, as they can easily target a broad number of potential victims with a single campaign. Made to look like the real thing, phishing messages are designed to make the victim believe they were sent from a trusted source and dupe them into clicking on a malicious link or otherwise unwittingly share their personal data with the attacker. Big companies like Netflix or Apple are continuously on the lookout for phishing scams that target their clients and the attacks keep getting more and more sophisticated. In many cases, these incidents are associated with another great risk faced by companies: negligent or malicious insiders. There may be the occasional disgruntled employee turned cybercriminal, who will abuse their access privileges, but most hacker attacks are enabled by users who simply have not received sufficient training to be able to recognize a phishing email or a similar scam.
As new tech and the IoT spreads, companies need to be mindful of the unprecedented risks that using smart devices entails. Unfortunately, the sector still needs a lot of finetuning when it comes to offering adequate protection to users, with IoT devices being particularly susceptible to cybercriminals looking for an easy way in. Some of the worst hacker incidents in history, like the attack on the Dyn servers in 2016, were perpetrated using a botnet – a network of hacked IoT devices reconfigured in order to do the hacker's bidding. Sometimes, hackers use these incidents in order to access devices that will act as a springboard to launch a further cybercrime campaign. All in all, as nonprofit organization the Identity Theft Resource Center reports, there were 9,978 recorded data breaches between the start of 2005 and February 2019, with a documented number of 1,531,096,326 records compromised.
With the recent series of ransomware attacks that targeted private companies and public bodies across several countries, it is hoped that most companies have realized the importance of data security and started implementing appropriate measures. It remains to be seen whether that will be enough.