There is plenty of great advice you can find online about protecting your business from cyberattacks. However, protecting your brand requires a more intricate strategy. It doesn't refer strictly to protecting your data and customers – it also refers to protecting your image and reputation.
There are plenty of ways for hackers to destroy your brand even though they never directly attacked your website. They can spread misinformation, conduct phishing attacks by posing as your business, or misuse your product or services. All of these things can be treated as cyberattacks on your brand, so let's talk about how to deal with them.
Start with a basic security plan
The best way to deal with cyberattacks is to prevent them. Prevention can come in two forms: passive defense and active defense. A basic security plan is a passive defense; here's how to make sure it's strong.
1. Use HTTPS protocol.
Using HTTPS protocol is a norm for any website that stores users' personal information such as their email addresses, street addresses and credit card numbers. This protocol prevents third parties from accessing or modifying information exchanged between the website and the user.
The HTTPS protocol is enabled by installing an SSL certificate, which is normally purchased alongside the website domain. While there are businesses that still use HTTP protocol, HTTPS is favored by search engines and users, who can check the validity of the website's SSL certificate by looking at the padlock icon in the address bar.
Long story short – if you want to protect your business and brand, make sure you go HTTPS.
2. Carefully consider how and where you store data.
Storing sensitive information and protecting it against cyberattacks is one of the greatest challenges for brands. Every brand wants to keep their workflow smooth and its customers feeling safe. There are four ways data can be stored:
- On-premises: Storing data on physical servers owned by the business
- Colocation: Storing data on physical servers in specialized centers, sharing space with other businesses
- Public cloud: Storing data online in clouds used by multiple businesses
- Private cloud: Storing data in clouds dedicated to a specific business, customized by extra layers of protection
None of these methods is completely immune to cyberattacks. Due to their scalability and affordability, public clouds are increasingly popular among small and mid-size businesses. Although public clouds offer great protection against cyberattacks, if they happen, they endanger multiple businesses and can affect millions of users.
Depending on the sensitivity of data you store, you can opt for one of these solutions, but it is always a good idea to compartmentalize your data and use additional protection.
3. Update your software.
A responsible brand treats every aspect of its workflow with great consideration. This refers even to those small annoying tasks such as updating software that is used on a regular basis. Software updates are a valuable line of defense against cyberattacks as they contain fixes for both core features and vulnerabilities to the latest hacking methods.
Want an example? When the notorious Equifax data breach happened, more than 140 million people had their addresses, credit reports and social security numbers exposed. Equifax had a fix for a vulnerability in its web application available through updates two months before this cyberattack took place!
So, protect your brand and don't click on the "cancel" or "later" button the next time you get a pop-up window on your computer for new updates.
4. Educate your employees and control their access to your network.
Employees' irresponsible behavior, lack of education or misuse of credentials is behind an alarmingly large number of cyberattacks. Thus, protecting your brand also means teaching your employees how to spot cyber threats, how to double-check content they are accessing and how to use the company's resources responsibly.
On top of that, sometimes you also have to protect your brand from your employees. Limit their access to the features and network compartments that are relevant to their jobs.
5. Have a crisis plan.
Around two-thirds of businesses don't have a disaster recovery plan in case of a cyberattack. If you want to build and maintain an image of a reputable brand, it is important that you have an emergency plan. This should include the following:
- Clearly defining potential security breach(es)
- Designating an incident response team
- Creating a clear crisis protocol with a detailed chain of action
- Regularly updating the plan and testing protocols
With a crisis plan, even if the worst happens, you will be able to quickly address, minimize or eliminate the security threat. More importantly, you will maintain the reputation of a brand that is organized and capable of dealing with difficult situations.
Proactively prevent cyberattacks
An active defense to prevent cyberattacks requires you to monitor what's happening on your website and outside of it. Some of the most damaging types of attacks include hacking (compromising cybersecurity by exploiting vulnerabilities of a digital device), phishing, malware, and errors and abuse by employees. We continue our list of tips with two ways to actively defend your business:
6. Monitor suspicious website visitors.
First, focus on things that happen on your website. One of the most effective ways to see who's lurking and what their intentions are is to use website categorization tools in correlation with other tools such as domain name monitoring solutions. These API tools allow you to analyze your website visitors and find indicators of compromised security. For example, this could be a domain that keeps trying to access your website's control panel.
Once you are warned, these tools can investigate this domain's credentials, purpose, and malicious activities. Based on the results, you can blacklist such domains from even visiting your website. These API tools can also be used to monitor and manage your employees' communication. You can filter web content they can access or receive, protecting them from cyberattacks.
7. Monitor potential impersonators.
Phishing is probably the trickiest form of cyberattack. It doesn't rely on malware, but instead primarily focuses on tricking users into willingly sharing confidential information. Most phishing attacks come in the form of emails containing links to pages that faithfully imitate websites of credible, reputable institutions such as banks, hospitals and insurance companies.
The tricky part is that the attack doesn't explore your vulnerabilities, but it can effectively destroy your brand because it is using your name and logo to steal from your customers. Trusted brands like Amazon or PayPal are often impersonated in phishing attacks. If these attacks become too common and associated with your brand, you have a problem.
So how do you deal with phishing head-on? By monitoring existing and new domains that contain the name of your brand or seek to imitate it. Similarly, as with domains that seek to compromise your website's security, you can block these websites, warn your customers about potential impersonators and report phishing sites to legal authorities.
Defending your brand from cyberattacks should not be limited to the battle behind the walls. It is important to watch what is happening around you and identify threats on time. This allows you to be one step ahead of hackers and be in full control of your brand. Active defense requires advanced cyber intelligence tools, so make sure you choose them wisely.