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How to tell if you’re cybersecurity is at risk

Lily Howell Oct 4, 2021 9:30:00 AM
Using modern technologies at work. Close-up of young businessman typing something while sitting at the desk in creative office

Cybercriminals are constantly developing new tactics, which means that protecting your company isn’t as straightforward as installing a firewall and putting virus protection on your devices. Instead, it would be safer if you had a continually evolving cybersecurity strategy to manage your cyber risk.

Equally, you may think you don’t need to worry about cyber-attacks because you have an IT department to catch any threats. But, sadly, even with an IT department or IT support company, you can still be at risk. But by knowing the signs to look for, you can put processes in place to help avoid a cyber-attack. So before we dive into all the potential risks, let’s first define what a cyber security threat is.

What is Cyber Risk?

Cyber risk is the likelihood of suffering harmful disruptions to sensitive data, business operations or finances. Most commonly, cyber risks are associated with incidents that could lead to a breach in data. Cyber risks can also be referred to as security threats.

Types of security risks include:

Though frequently used interchangeably, cyber risks and vulnerabilities aren’t the same things. A vulnerability is a weakness that results in unauthorised network access when exploited, and cyber risk is the likelihood of a vulnerability being exploited.

Cyber security risks are categorised from zero, low, medium, to high-risks. The three main factors that impact vulnerability assessments are:

  • What is the threat?
  • How vulnerable is the system?
  • What is the financial or reputational damage if breached or made unavailable?

There are few things with zero risk to a business process or information system, and risk suggests uncertainty. If something is guaranteed to happen, it’s not a risk. It’s part of your general business operations.

Let’s look at some of the signs your business may be at risk from cyber-attacks:

1. Old operating systems

Operating systems like Windows are responsible for controlling the hardware and software on your computers. They also come with security features to keep your systems protected. However, to work efficiently, you have to use a recent operating system – not one that is more than a few years old.

Ask yourself what operating system you’re currently using and if it’s up-to-date, or if you’re still running with the system that was installed when you first purchased your device? Unfortunately, using an old operating system means you’re likely missing out on the latest security features, updates and patches developed to protect you from attacks.

As software ages, the provider stops providing support and updates for that particular version, putting outdated software at risk of exposure to cybercriminals.

2. Out-of-date anti-virus software

Malware and viruses are constantly evolving, so it’s essential to keep your anti-virus software up-to-date. To help stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, talk to your IT support provider to ensure you’re using the latest protection.

Read our blog on ‘10 ways to protect your business from Malware attacks’ for more about Malware.

3. You’re systems are getting slower

If your internet connection is constantly dropping or things just aren’t working efficiently, it could be an indication that you’re under attack from a DoS (denial of service) attack.

If things seem off or are running slower than usual, take action. Don’t wait for the worst to happen before you do something. It’s much easier and more cost-effective to prevent an attack than to try to recover from one. Talk to your IT support provider to get a clear picture of what protection you have in place and what else you can do to give your business the protection it needs.

4. Allowing staff to use their own devices for work

Letting staff use their own devices at work comes with many benefits. Of course, there are obvious cost savings, but it also allows employees to work more flexibly from their preferred device.

However, letting staff use their own devices comes with several risks.

When staff use their own devices, it isn’t easy to keep track of what operating systems and security protection they have in place. Plus, you can lose visibility on how confidential data is being stored and accessed.

An employee could unknowingly download malicious software onto their device, giving cybercriminals a way into your systems. It’s also impossible to know who has access to the device outside the workplace – could a relative or friend access company info? And what happens when the employee leaves the company? How can you be sure they’ve removed all business data from their device?

So, while allowing employees to use their own devices can bring many benefits, it’s essential to manage the process with documentation and training to help staff work safely. You may be wise to put together a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy to define some ground rules.

Is BYOD putting your business at risk? Check out our policy guide

5. You have a high staff turnover

A business with a high staff turnover can increase the risk of cyberattacks.

You may find that to train new employees as quickly as possible; you skip cybersecurity during their induction. For employees on a part-time or short-term contract, you may opt to take a few shortcuts with their inductions to get them into work quicker.

As staff frequently join and leave the business, it becomes harder to keep track of devices, access, passwords.

Is there a clear process for when people leave the business? How do you ensure that they can no longer access sensitive information or gain access to your systems?

Full-time cybercriminals don’t exclusively commit cyber attacks – a disgruntled ex-employee could create a considerable amount of damage if they still have access to your systems.

6. Not regularly backing up business data

Failing to back up company data regularly increases the risk of damage caused by a cyber-attack.

A robust backup process is a great defence from ransomware attacks (where cybercriminals demand payment after blocking access to your data). If your files are backed up, you know that you’ll be able to recover the files if the worst happens. If you haven’t, you may feel you have no option other than to pay the criminals to restore your data.

A good backup process protects you from cyber-attacks and flooding, fires, and equipment failure.

7. Lack of cybersecurity policies

Does your business have a cybersecurity policy? Are your staff trained to protect the company from cyber-attacks? If not, you considerably increase the risk of falling victim to cybercrime. Why? Because human error is one of the most common causes of cyberattacks. You can have security measures like virus protection and firewalls, but that won’t stop employees from clicking on a malicious link or opening an infected attachment.

How do you know that staff always create secure passwords? To add an extra layer of protection, you can introduce two-factor authentication (sometimes called multi-factor authentication) rather than relying on passwords alone.

Make sure your business has a cybersecurity policy in place to cover how to store customer data correctly. And ensure all staff members are familiar with the policy.

To ensure cyber safety is a top priority for staff members, make it a crucial part of your induction process and provide ongoing cybersecurity training for all employees.

8. No cybersecurity strategy

If you don’t have a cyber security strategy or one that’s up-to-date, chances are you’re also failing to protect your business effectively.

It can be challenging to make cyber security a priority when you have pressing matters that need addressing. But continually putting it on the back burner will burn you when the worst happens, and your business grinds to a painful halt. So, take the time to create a robust cybersecurity strategy; start with a cyber security assessment to identify gaps and vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity safeguards.

‘Dark web monitoring’ is a valuable strategy you can put into place quickly. Dark web monitoring scans the dark web and alerts you if your details have been stolen and are now for sale on the dark web. Allowing you to take immediate action before any damage is done.

As we’ve discovered, there are many factors to consider when looking at cyber security management. If you found yourself questioning what you do and don’t have in terms of protection, it’s time to ask your in-house or outsourced IT team. And if they can’t give you the answers you need, or the cover you require, maybe it’s time to find someone that can.

When you’re looking for a new IT partner, it’s crucial to quiz them on their cyber services and what is included and how they keep themselves safe.

An IT company that doesn’t think about its own compliance, security, and business continuity risks your business and is not best placed to advise you on IT. Not to mention that they could be a risk to you - IT companies make an attractive target to cybercriminals, as they’re a gateway to many other businesses. So, make sure you’re asking the right questions.

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