If you’ve even passively watched the news in the last year, you know that hackers have had a field day with companies all over the United States. However, while the Colonial Pipeline got all of the attention, small businesses bore most of the brunt, costing businesses over $6 trillion in 2021 alone.
Fortunately, there are ways you can protect your business, and it starts with knowing what to look for. Let’s talk about the different types of cyberattacks to watch out for in 2022.
Why Cyberattacks are a Huge Concern in 2022
As we mentioned, businesses are losing significant money to cybercrimes every single day. Unfortunately, very few businesses have gotten the memo. So, let’s briefly discuss why it’s so important before jumping into the types of attacks.
Attacks are Rising Sharply
The use of the word “sharply” is no understatement. 2020 saw an unprecedented growth of cyberattacks that have continued rising through the present.
To put it into perspective, 2020 surpassed 2019’s total of cyberattacks by 17% as soon as September. Trends continued to rise from there and the third quarter of 2021 saw more attacks than the first two quarters combined.
Now, we’re in a unique predicament. With the rise of software hacks, there will need to be major investments in cybersecurity in 2022 for every business, agency, and organization out there. However, small businesses should take particular care.
Small Businesses are Prime Targets
Think about it from the point of view of a cybercriminal. Attacking General Electric or Apple is going to be a serious challenge that few hackers have the skills to do. However, many will try because of the high reward.
On the other hand, individuals are often easy to attack but they aren’t always worth it. They may not have a high enough reward to interest the criminals.
Well, that’s where small businesses come in at a happy medium. Small businesses have money but often poor security. Often, they’re even easier to attack than individuals, considering how many potential doors they have.
An individual may have a smartphone and a laptop that a hacker could potentially breach, whereas a small business could have dozens. If the business’s employees are using their personal computers as well, then this leaves plenty of potential doors with different security standards, and they all lead to the same prize.
The Effects are Devastating
Not only are small businesses excellent targets for cyberattacks, but they are also far more likely to never recover. Going back to the example of Apple, a $2.6 trillion company, they could easily handle a breach even if it had a multimillion-dollar payout.
However, for a small business, paying out $200,000 because of a cyberattack and then losing business because of it could spell the end. If you think that’s an exaggeration, think again. 60% of small businesses shut down within 6 months after a cyberattack and that number is only increasing. One breach is all it takes to end a business.
Types of Cyberattacks to Watch Out For
While more types of cyberattacks continue to develop all the time, some are far more common than others, posing a particular threat to small businesses.
Keep in mind, these are general umbrella terms for the types of attacks, not descriptions of how they will look. Each of these attacks is adapting and evolving as we speak, so proper education is still important. However, here are the most common types of cyberattacks.
Social Engineering (Phishing)
If there is one type you focus on the most, it should be social engineering attacks. Not only are they some of the most common but they can’t be fixed with anti-virus software.
Social engineering scams, more commonly known as “phishing”, are when attackers use psychological manipulation to convince someone to perform a specific task. This could be in the form of an email, text message, phone call, or anything else.
The act they may want someone to commit could be as seemingly harmless as clicking on a link or a picture. From there, attackers could download malware, enter their network, or perform a variety of attacks.
Phishing is one of the most common types of cyberattacks and one of the most difficult to protect against. Encryption, passwords, and all other protocols are rendered useless if an employee falls for a phishing scam.
Moreover, phishing is of particular concern due to its recent “improvements”. With the rise of deep fake technology and more sophisticated scam practices, phishing is becoming far more popular and lucrative among criminals. Unfortunately, small businesses are the easiest target.
While much weaker phishing scams pretend to be a “Nigerian prince” or something similar, there are others that pose a far more serious concern. Often, attackers will attempt to pose as coworkers, clients, or people related to the organization they seek to attack. If that isn’t caught immediately, they could easily infiltrate your data.
While this is a quasi-social engineering technique, it’s more generalized for groups of people and organizations. However, it is less common than phishing.
The “watering hole” is a website or page on the internet where people or organizations with similar interests frequent. The goal is to infect one of them with malware in the hopes of them returning to that site and infecting the rest. Eventually, some members of the group will be infected.
Think of a chatroom where people meet regularly, a local business directory, or a nonprofit grant-funding website. These are perfect examples of “watering holes” where people will exchange data with one another and potentially infect an entire group of people or organizations.
“Drive-by download” is the term used when harmful code is accidentally downloaded by a victim. However, you don’t have to click on anything or interact with a message in order to download it.
Often, attackers will take advantage of an app, operating system, web browser, or another harmless tool that you would download. From there, they can infect your computer and hijack your device, spy on your activity, or even disable your device.
The term “Malware” covers a wide variety of harmful codes. However, viruses, ransomware, and other common forms of malware can get into your system in a number of ways, usually by downloading some type of code.
Different types of malware can cause different problems, but any infection that infiltrates your system is bad news. Spyware, worms, and ransomware can easily put you out of business.
Physical Theft or Tampering
If you store valuable data in hard drives or other physical storage spaces, then physical theft is another threat to your business. Always keep external hard drives locked away and your business locked up when out of operation.
This leaves you open to plenty of attacks on your network as well, as anybody with physical access can potentially plant bugs, spyware, or anything else on your system.
For example, if somebody has access to your router, they could launch a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, where perpetrators make your network resources unavailable or disrupt service in pursuit of ransom.
How to Protect Your Company’s Data
Now that you know the most common types of attacks, you need to know how to prevent them. Here’s where you can start.
Especially when it comes to preventing phishing scams, employees need to know how to practice proper digital hygiene. Every employee who has access to your network is a potential door for cybercriminals.
When it comes to preventing phishing scams, there is no technology that can protect your data. Instead, you have to rely on your employees, as any one of them could become a target. Employees should know how to identify social engineering and know exactly how to report it both within your company and to the proper authorities.
Also, employees should know the protocols for changing passwords, which devices are allowed on the network, and other security protocols. Anything else mentioned on this list can be taught to your employees, so always encourage them to follow security protocols.
When combined with employee education, encryption will do a lot to keep your data safe. Everything from your file-sharing methods to your backup solutions should use proper encryption.
Your data is most sensitive during transport. Because of this, file-sharing should always use encryption, especially when working remotely. Also, cloud-based storage solutions allow you to access your backup data from anywhere with internet access while offering high levels of encryption.
Also, using two-factor authentication to access your encrypted data is always the best practice. No password is perfect, so adding an extra layer of protection is strongly advised.
If you aren’t familiar with the term, two-factor authentication uses an additional factor to allow access to data. This could be a combination of passwords, 4-digit PINs, biometrics, email verification, or text message verification. Using two factors is much harder for hackers to replicate.
Anti-malware software is your best defense against infectious code. You should always use the latest software, consistently update it, and run checks as frequently as possible. Encourage your employees to do the same with their computers at home!
Web browsers, email software, and any other application that uses the internet should be updated regularly. We understand it’s annoying how frequently they require updates, but they do it to keep up with bug fixes and more advanced malware.
Opting for automatic updates is the easiest way to ensure your software stays on top of these issues, so set that up as soon as possible. Once again, encourage your staff to do the same.
Practice Good Remote Hygiene
Digital hygiene is crucial for every business, but especially ones using remote workers, as there are many different networks and security practices to cover. If you have remote or hybrid workers, it’s critical to use a virtual private network (VPN) and have all of your staff use it remotely.
If possible, staff should also use work computers when working from home, or at least follow the same standards on their personal computers.
Changing your VPN however often you want is also a good idea, as this will only help protect you. VPNs are inexpensive, easy to use, and they could save your business from an attack.
Have a Disaster-Relief Plan in Place
While we should take every possible precaution when it comes to preventing a cyberattack, no system is perfect. Because of this, you don’t want one mishap to spell the end of your company.
You should have a plan in place for the worst-case scenario on how you will isolate the breach, how your business will recover financially, how you will address your customers, and how you will correct the mistakes that led to the issue. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!
Finally, there is no substitute for expert IT security. They can help you with anything on this list and help prevent any type of cyberattack from occurring. While practicing proper digital hygiene is important, nothing compares to having a dedicated team of cybersecurity professionals watching after your data.
Don’t Let Them Win
Now that you know the most common types of cyberattacks, why they’re such an existential threat to businesses, and what you can do about them, put this knowledge to good use. While the rise in attacks doesn’t seem to have an end in sight, we can all do our part to start reversing the trends. Stay up to date with our latest business news and feel free to reach out to us with any questions!