Don't Hide Your Head in the Sand: The Latest on Cyber Attacks

Business.com / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Learn about the types of cyber attacks to consider including what the risks are for small businesses.

The phrase "cyber attack" incites enough fear to cause most people to visibly shudder.

The amount of time people spend online each day is staggering; according to Pew Research, one-fifth of Americans report going online almost constantly.

Your whole life resides somewhere in the digital world, which makes you a sitting duck for cyber attacks if you don't take precautions.

Of course, you can invest in security measures, monitor your credit, and read up on the latest scams and viruses to keep your own data safe (as you should), but what happens when hackers and cyber criminals target places that store your data?

Hackers do target individual people but get much more information by targeting large corporations, doctors offices, and even small businesses. Their modes of attack constantly change.

As consumers and the business minded find new ways to combat the latest hacking technique, hackers devise new methods we haven't thought of yet. There are projections each year on where the newest and biggest security threats are and information on how to thoroughly protect your data. For individuals, this is important. For small businesses, this is beyond imperative.

Related Article:Enemy Strategy, Revealed: The Types of Cyber Attacks That Took Down Target & Sony

Types of Attacks to Consider in 2016 and How to Protect Your Business From Them

People think of hackers as these cloaked geniuses deftly maneuvering through our files at a rate we can't contain with a knowledge we can't combat. Science fiction renders them larger than life when the reality is that they're no more maniacal genius than yesteryear's con man. They simply use a different brand of tools.

Rather than outsmarting people in person, most hackers outsmart people through the portal of the online world. Their method of garnering the information that allows them to access sensitive data is far less ingenious than people believe. In fact, we often give the information over to them willingly. Phishing is still one of the most prevalent cyber crimes and this type of crime relies on a user giving away sensitive information.

Here are some of the most talked about and common cyber crime threats to be aware of this year.

Online Credit Card Theft

You might be aware that chip card technology has been implemented across the United States in the last year. What this means is that credit cards have been equipped with microchips. This is a protective measure that works because the traditional magnetic strip on a credit card holds static information which is easy for criminals to replicate.

However, the chip technology transfers unique codes on every use at a point-of-service portal, which makes the chip impossible for criminals to currently counterfeit. This eliminates a large portion of the theft of credit card information from real world portals. Projections are that this dynamic will increase the number of online credit card fraudulent charges, which is exactly what happened when chip card technology was adopted in Europe.

There are a number of warning signs that can signal your credit card is being used fraudulently. When you see these signs, follow up with card owners of purchase to verify, preferably before shipping, if you are in a business that sells products. Note:

  • Check the billing and shipping addresses. Different addresses can be a red flag.
  • Be wary of large orders from new customers insisting on next day delivery.
  • A billing address that doesn’t match the credit card account (especially a fake address).

DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service attacks is caused when someone enlists bots, usually computers compromised by viruses, to all target one server, causing a disruption of the site. Often these attacks flood the server so that the entire website goes down. This doesn't necessarily sound as bad as it is. After all, the data isn't compromised. But these attacks effectively disrupt business because neither customers nor employees can access the site until the attack is halted.

Related Article:How to Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Attacks

In protecting your business from DDos attacks, consider:

  • In-House IT. There is specialized equipment available to prevent DDoS attacks which would basically protect business servers. However, the equipment would need to be updated frequently and run by an industry professional, which means your company needs an in-house IT staff to use this solution.
  • ISP Provided Services. Many companies contract their ISP provider to mitigate DDoS attacks.
  • Cloud Based Mitigation. There are cloud based internet security companies who provide DDoS security for their clients.

Ransomware

This attack is instigated by malware downloaded onto the computer, which effectively locks the user out of their own device. Panda Security defines it simply noting: ransomware is one of the most dangerous types of malware, blocking the PC, taking control, encrypting files, and demanding a ransom to return them to you.

There's a second type of ransomware that doesn't actually lock the user out. In this case, it's a code on a website which opens a screen telling you you've been compromised and the code doesn't allow the user to traditionally backspace out. This scam tells you to call a number. The reality is that the code is written on the page, it's not a virus on your computer. You can open the task manager and close your browser to escape the screen.

Traditional ransomware does compromise sensitive information and the objective is to extort money in return for your own information. There have been large companies impacted by this type of hack, as well as private citizens. If you suspect you've been hit with ransomware, take these precautions right away:

  • Update all systems. Older systems are more vulnerable to attack, so make sure to upgrade your systems and patch any outdated software.
  • Backup your data. Data should be backed up externally and not attached to any vulnerable computer, often an external drive can be used.
  • Invest in good security. A layered approach to your cyber security can block ransomware attacks before they happen, which is ideal.

Destruction of Reputation

There have been a great many cyber crimes involving the purposeful destruction of personal and corporate reputations. These include cases of hackers gaining access to websites and social media accounts and changing messages or posting as the individual or company. Often these attacks are less destructive, though they can potentially be very damaging if not caught quickly or if contacts become susceptible to requests for personal information. Help avoid destruction of reputation by:

  • Monitoring all accounts frequently so any messages posted from company accounts by someone unauthorized will be caught quickly.
  • Changing passwords and regaining control of accounts as soon as possible. 
  • Mitigating damage with consumers by employing goodwill efforts for any issues the hack may have caused and addressing the issue.

The Risk for Smaller Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Small businesses and entrepreneurs have traditionally been spared from the largest types of cyber security issues because thieves going after massive data often target larger businesses. However, in today's economy, freelancers and small businesses face a large problem. Small businesses, freelancers, and single entrepreneur businesses make up about 80 percent of the businesses in the U.S. and they spend far less on security than the large corporations, which make them a much more lucrative target.

Related Article:Cyber Crime to Reach $2 Trillion By 2019: What Can We Do?

Regardless of the size of your business, keeping your client and customer data protected is paramount. When there is a data breach, all customers who can possibly be impacted need to be notified, which can diminish trust in your company and subsequently cost you business. The good news is that there are affordable methods for thoroughly protecting all of your data from threats of attack. The key is in staying up to date on current threats and protecting your business accordingly. 

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