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The 7 Biggest Cybersecurity Threats You Should Prepare For


These days, businesses are increasingly relying on technology to operate successfully. They collect consumer data and use it to understand their customer base. They manage complex and innumerable financial transactions over the web. And of course, they rely on several software applications and a standing internet connection to do business on a daily basis. 

All it takes is one smart cyberattack to knock many of these systems out of commission, steal your data, or make your customers vulnerable. And considering 43 percent of all cyberattacks target small businesses, cyberattacks are something you need to take seriously. 

Most cyberthreats, however, aren’t overt brute force attacks. The truly dangerous (and common) threats are sneakier and hard to notice. 


The Biggest Cybersecurity Threats

These are some of the most common and noteworthy cybersecurity threats facing small business owners: 

  1. Phishing. Phishing is one of the most common attempts to gain access to your important systems. The idea is simple; a cybercriminal mimics or replicates a trustworthy source and requests sensitive data from the recipient. For example, they might send an employee an email claiming to be Microsoft and asking them to verify their password. If the employee obliges and hands over their password, it can immediately be used against them. Phishing can also occur when a cybercriminal replicates an online form. 

  2. Fake updates. An increasingly common attack is executed through the guise of a “fake update.” As you’re undoubtedly aware, most software programs encourage users to update on a regular basis, issuing patches, fixes, and new features. But if a cybercriminal can effectively mimic the developer of that software, they can issue an update of their own. Only instead of updating the software, they may sneakily install a piece of malware, or otherwise compromise the integrity of your systems. 

  3. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. DDoS attacks are remote attacks designed to prevent people from accessing something on the web or on a server. Basically, every server or network has an upper threshold of the number of requests it can serve within a period of time; arbitrarily, let’s say a website server can only handle 1,000 requests at a time. A DDoS attack coordinates many devices to access the website over and over, bombarding it with 1,100 requests; now, the site is inaccessible to any normal user who tries to access it. DDoS attacks are sometimes executed out of spite, but are usually done to take the site hostage. 

  4. Malware. “Malware” is the generic name for a large number of different types of malicious software. This category includes spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms. Different malware types have different purposes, but none of them are good; for example, spyware has the potential to witness your actions on a computer, eventually stealing your passwords, and ransomware can render your machine inoperable until you pay a ransom to the hackers responsible for installing it. Most of the time, malware is installed when a user makes a mistake; they click a suspicious link, open an email attachment from an unknown sender, or plug in a mysterious flash drive they found on the ground. 

  5. Man in the middle (MitM) attacks. MitM attacks take advantage of a connection between two devices or systems, and “listen in” to the conversation. For example, they may get between your computer and a public Wi-Fi network, or try to steal data from a connection between two apps communicating through an API. 

  6. Opportunistic attacks. Many attacks are simply opportunistic, and don’t require any technical expertise or forethought. For example, if an employee leaves a password on a sticky note at their desk, someone passing by could notice it, log in with it, and wreak havoc on your systems in any way they choose.
  7. Insider threats. Similarly, don’t discount the possibility of an insider threat. If a malicious or rogue employee with ample access to your data decides, they may sell your data to a third party or damage your systems in some way. This is best mitigated with limited employee access. 


The Importance of Employee Training

Most of these cyberthreats have a few qualities in common. First, they’re preventable; if someone chose a stronger password or recognized a suspicious link before clicking it, the threat would cease to be. Second, they’re dependent on employee actions. Your employees are creating new passwords, browsing their email inboxes, and possibly using unsecured Wi-Fi networks. 

Accordingly, one of the best things you can do to improve your cybersecurity is better train your employees on cybersecurity best practices. Obviously, good antivirus software, secure third-party apps, and firewalls can help, but better trained and alert employees will dramatically increase your chances of preventing or mitigating the risks of a cyberthreat. 


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