Cyber attacks: Think damages

by Tom Allen (Tom.allen@mainstream-tech.com) 126 views 

Hackers are finding it more and more difficult to compromise larger enterprises and are shifting their attention elsewhere. Guess where they are lurking now?

It may surprise you to know that small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are now the hot target of external breach attacks.

As an SMB, this may not be disconcerting to you because you may not think you have anything worth stealing. This perspective reveals a lack of understanding about how hackers operate and what they really want. It also puts all of the emphasis on the hacker’s benefit and not enough on the impact to the business.

You may not have a lot worth stealing, but you do have a lot to lose. It is less about theft and more about the collateral damages from breaches. For example, if you have been shut down because your IT assets have been frozen until you pay the ransom, you are looking at (1) lost productivity from seized or damaged assets (2) lost revenues and (3) reputational damage to your firm.

Recently, three Alabama hospitals in the same health system were forced to close their doors to new patients the night of the attack and are still operating under downtime procedures. Experts are calling this latest wave of “disruptionware” as an emerging category of malware.

According to the New York Times, “More than 40 municipalities have been the victims of cyberattacks this year, from major cities such as Baltimore, Albany and Laredo, Tex., to smaller towns including Lake City, Fla. Lake City is one of the few cities to have paid a ransom demand — about $460,000 in Bitcoin… because it thought reconstructing its systems would be even more costly.”

In another scenario, hackers might unlock your credentials to get into your client’s or vendor’s system, making you liable. Costs would include legal fees, penalties, notifications, forensic investigation, and loss from reputational harm, as well as potential damages to third parties. The high profile Target breach was possible by hacking the credentials of the local HVAC company that Target used which opened the path to Target’s customer information.

Through social engineering, bad actors may pose as someone you know and trust to give them money, or con you out of funds posing as a charitable organization. There is no theft because you give the funds willingly. But you still lose.

WHAT CAN SMALL BUSINESS DO ABOUT IT?

• Keep your software patched. Over a third of successful attacks leveraged unpatched software.
• Train yourself and employees how to recognize social engineering attacks. Individual users/employees are the top carriers of the “virus.”
• Whenever possible, use multi-factor authentication. Even if credentials get stolen, the ability of bad guys to use them is limited because they don’t have access to the second factor. The day 2-factor authentication was implemented at gas pumps, a 94% reduction in gas fraud was noted over night!
• Maintain current IT assets, appropriate cyber tools and layered security.
• Include cyber as part of your overall risk assessment process.

Editor’s note: Tom Allen is Director of IT Business Development at Mainstream Technologies, Inc. in Little Rock. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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