6 Biggest Internet Security Threats Facing Business

By Chris Porteous,
business.com writer
Jan 14, 2020
Image Credit: wutwhanfoto/Getty Images

The are a wide number of security threats businesses should be protecting against.

The tech-driven nature of the modern world has forced most businesses to flock to IT tools in greater numbers than ever before. While most companies have embraced the IT revolution, relatively few of them have the tech-savviness needed to avoid major data breaches or similar IT scandals. Nevertheless, giving up digital tools for good is simply unaffordable for most businesses, which means that they should be taking active steps to secure themselves from today’s biggest internet security threats.

Here's a breakdown of the 6 biggest internet security threats facing business, and what you can do to ensure you won't be caught off-guard by them.

1. Phishing emails are still plentiful

Phishing emails are almost as old as the internet itself, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that they're a thing of the past that no longer warrant your concern. As a matter of fact, phishing emails are still plentiful and remain one of the most consistent threats that many businesses face. The reason that phishing emails are so insidious is the first place is because they're actually relatively uncomplicated; it relies not on a technical breakdown in your system to succeed, but rather upon the gullibility and human fallibility of your employees.

Set some time aside to assure that your workforce is up to date on phishing awareness, as somebody pretending to be someone they're not is perhaps the chief cybersecurity threat of the modern era. By pretending to be a legitimate business, brand, or individual, phishers send out seemingly-legitimate emails that are actually quite deceptive and at times full of malware. Until you understand how to train your employees to respond properly to phishing attempts, your business will never be secure from IT threats.

2. Be mindful of browser extensions

Outside of phishing emails, you should also be aware of the myriad of dangers presented by a browser extension. Browser extensions are usually minor and often harmless features added to popular web browsers like Google Chrome or Firefox, but some of them are actually quite harmful. For instance, some browser extensions may be collecting information on their users which they then sell to third parties. This means that your company's critical information could be getting vacuumed up and sold to other people without you or the employees being victimized ever being aware of it in the first place.

An in-depth report from the Washington Post elucidates just how exactly browser extensions can collect information on users. You should ensure that every one of your employees has read this article, before doing a company-wide sweep to determine if harmful browser extensions have been installed on vital company equipment. To be clear, this isn’t to say that any and all browser extensions are illegitimate and that your company can’t permit any of them, but rather to note that you need to be cautious and constantly updating yourself when it comes to what’s been installed on company computers.

If your employees work from home, browser extensions that have been installed on their personal computers could also be jeopardizing important company information that they work with. Remember to always respect worker privacy, but don’t be afraid to ask your employees who work from home to do a private sweep of their own browser extensions to ensure their data isn’t being vacuumed up without their consent or awareness.

3. Social media oversharing

Social media platforms are more popular than ever before, and it seems that just about everyone is on Facebook, Twitter, or a similar platform these days. While this is great insofar as interconnectivity is concerned, it can actually generate a slew of IT risks that many business owners are totally unaware of. Many people overshare on social media, for instance, and this means far more than posting too many vacation photos or late-night political rants. Sometimes, employees can post sensitive information on social media without being aware of what they're divulging to the public. At times, your competitors may even be monitoring the social media feeds of your high-value employees to determine what’s on their mind, what they're working on, or how they could go about incentivizing your workers to leave your company for greener pastures elsewhere.

Be aware of social media oversharing and pay particular attention to photos that are posted online. Sensitive information like written-down passwords or the specific hardware your company relies upon could be made public if somebody takes a picture without checking to see if it's acceptable to post before they share it. Whenever you’re discussing internet privacy with employees, it's crucial to understand that they must consider how their personal lives overlap with their professional careers in the midst of the digital age.

4. Personal devices leak data like a sieve

Besides focusing on company computers and the personal browsing habits of your workforce, every business concerned about IT security should also be constantly reminding their workers that personal devices like smartphones leak data like a sieve. Everybody has some sense of awareness that we're being tracked in the modern era; without the close monitoring of users, most technical devices and services which we've come to love and even expect wouldn’t necessarily be possible. Few of us truly understand just how seriously our personal devices track us and release our data to the wider world, however.

Despite Apple's promises to guard user privacy, for instance, iPhones still widely share the personal information of their users in less-than-transparent ways. If you issued company phones to your workforce, consider the fact that you may have been inviting data tracking and invasive surveillance techniques into your place of business.

5. Passwords and access issues

This section will consider two separate but closely related issues; password management and employee access are two areas where many businesses suffer from relatively lacking security protocol. Most of us have a myriad of passwords that we need to remember in our everyday lives; whether it's accessing our smartphones, personal computers, or the various digital services that we love, there's a good chance the average person has at least two or three passwords to keep in mind at all times. It's thus imperative to establish that employee password management is one of the most crucial elements of any good IT security strategy, as failing to regularly update your passwords can lead to disastrous outcomes.

Constantly updating your password isn't enough, either; you must also be aware that certain practices relied upon by some users, like writing their passwords down, will inevitably lead to other people seeing those passwords and potentially exploiting them for unauthorized access. The next issue is "access," or whether or not employees can access certain services, data centers, or pieces of hardware that they shouldn’t be able to.

Protecting yourself against privileged user abuse isn't easy, as it demands that you take a close look at the people you should be able to trust the most – your workers. Privileged user abuse and other access issues remain very damaging to companies who ignore them, however, so don't think you can brush this under the rug.

Finally, always be aware that not all links are legitimate. What you click on matters – installing the wrong application or visiting a webpage mistakenly can spell disaster for even the tech-savviest of companies. Ensure that your workers are making common-sense decisions when it comes to the links they click and things they download, and your business will have solved many IT dilemmas before they even appear.

I'm a serial entrepreneur and owner of three internet ventures, including My SEO Sucks. A contributor to ZeroHedge, Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, Inc.com, and dozens of other media outlets, I believe in SEO as a product. I developed a proprietary technology fueling the #1 rankings of My SEO Sucks clients. In guest speaking ventures across North American, I advocate for organic search traffic as the backbone of any comprehensive digital marketing strategy.
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