Large-scale cyber attacks have repeatedly made headlines, as consumers and businesses become more and more reliant on digital technology.[cite::219::cite] These massive cyber attacks affect millions of people and can cost millions of dollars in restoration costs, lost business, and other associated issues.
Cybercrime is not just a threat to huge corporations—small and mid-sized businesses are targets as well. In fact, small businesses are often lucrative targets because they can have much more data than an individual, yet not as much funding as a large corporation to protect against this type of crime.
The Results and Consequences of Cyber Attacks
Here are some of the risks posed by cyber attacks and the negative consequences that can result from them:
The most widely-known use of stolen data is identity theft. Stolen personal like names, birthdays, and Social Security numbers are used to open fraudulent credit cards, obtain medical services, open lines of credit, or even file taxes and receive tax returns. Along with potentially draining the victim's financial accounts and affecting credit scores, fixing identity theft can be incredibly tedious and time-consuming.
With cyber extortion, an attacker may threaten to release personal or damaging information about a business or its customers if a ransom is not paid. This often occurs when a fraudster emails a victim offering a private decryption key that will prevent an attack or release of information in exchange for money. Sadly, payment doesn’t guarantee prevention of future cyber attacks or information releases, and attackers often repeatedly target the same businesses.
Loss of Trade Secrets
A business’ intellectual property can also be a target. Cybercriminals can intercept private company data and attempt to sell it to competitors or other criminals, hold it for ransom or extortion, or even release sensitive trade secrets to the public.
Loss of Business Reputation and Credibility
Often more damaging than the monetary loss of cybercrime is the loss of trust. A loss of customer information can leave customers questioning a business’ security practices, leading them elsewhere. It can also leave other businesses wondering if they should reconsider working with compromised companies.
If a business deals with information legally protected by privacy legislation, then a loss of customer information adds another layer of complexity involving regulatory noncompliance. Any business dealing with HIPAA, FERPA, FACTA, or other information security regulations regarding protected information should take extra security measures.
How to Protect Your Business From Cyber Attacks
- The best course of action for cyber attack prevention is to do all of the following:
- Securely store and dispose of any documents with personal information Limit public access to sensitive business information
- Keep software up-to-date by installing firewalls, anti-virus software, encryption services, and security patches
- Keep passwords unique and update them frequently
- Update your standard operating procedures to include security protocols
- Invest in cyber attack prevention by hiring an IT expert or information security consultant to help arm your business against attacks
Thankfully, there are a few safeguards for cybercrime prevention. Get educated, then take the above steps to help better protect yourself and your business from the risk of cyber attacks.