Protecting Your Small Business from Cyber-attacks …and Developing a Stronger Approach to Cybersecurity in 2022
In a recent study by the Small Business Association (SBA), 88% of small business owners felt their business was vulnerable to a cyber-attack – malicious emails, attacks and phishing campaigns to name just a few. And business owners have good reason to be concerned. According to the FBI, the cost of cybercrimes reached $2.7 billion a year in 2020.
But what can a small business owner do? Most small business owners, especially with wineries where the owner wears so many different hats, simply don’t have the time or the resources to devote to reducing their cybersecurity threats. Often, they don’t know where to begin.
Protea recently spoke with John Comfort, President of Linked MSP, a Northern California based Managed Services Provider, specializing in Outsourced IT and Cybersecurity. Linked MSP is John’s second successful IT Solutions company, and this company focuses increasingly on guiding wineries, service providers and small businesses to develop effective cybersecurity strategies and processes.
Here are the highlights of our recent discussion with Linked MSP:
John’s Insight to Cyber Threats to Be Aware Of
According to John, there are four primary types of Cyberattacks: Malware, Viruses, Ransomware, and Phishing.
- Malware: Software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer system (servers, computers, networks, clients). According to Purplesec.com, 92% of malware is primarily delivered by email. Dataprot (a software development and consulting company) says there are over half a million new pieces of malware detected every single day.
- Viruses: Programs that are designed to “infect” and spread to devices connected within a network. The primary purpose of a virus is to cause temporary damage to software and give cybercriminals access to valuable data you store about your clients, your business or other professional or personal data.
- Ransomware: A specific type of malware that “hijacks” your computers and network until you pay some ransom, as demanded by the cybercriminal. This type of malware attacks in many different ways, seeking out vulnerabilities in your network or your cybersecurity processes. The costs to pay “ransoms” are skyrocketing. According to a Sophos survey, the AVERAGE cost of remediating a ransomware attack in 2021, was $1.85 million …twice as much as just one year earlier. The primary purpose of ransomware is to exfiltrate sensitive intellectual property as well as extort money from businesses in order to regain access to data that was encrypted. Most ransomware is delivered via the web, but initiated through email.
- Phishing: Cyber-attack that uses emails or websites to infect machines with malware, viruses or ransomware or to initiate social engineering via email, phone, texting, etc. Phishing emails fool the reader into thinking they are a legitimate sender, to entice the reader to click on the link. Once that occurs, the virus infection takes place.
Moreover, cyberattacks are extremely difficult to prevent with a near 100% success rate. And because their impact can be so devastating, it is vital that companies take steps to reduce the likelihood of cyberattack and the impact of an attack if it does take place.
Cybersecurity Recommendations to Keep Your Business Safe
Linked MSP has adopted the recommendations of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) that brought together the greatest companies and cybersecurity experts in the world to develop a 5-step approach to direct and support a company’s cybersecurity strategies and plans. The five steps are: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover.
“Develop the organizational understanding to manage cybersecurity risk to systems, assets, data, and capabilities.”- NIST
- Identify and Control who has access to key business information
- Conduct background checks
- Require individual user accounts for each employee
- Create policies and procedures for information security
“Develop and implement the appropriate safeguards to ensure delivery of critical infrastructure services.” -NIST
- Limit employee access to data and information
- Install surge protectors and uninterruptible power supply (UPS)
- Patch your operating systems and applications
- Install and activate software and hardware firewalls on all your business networks
- Secure your wireless access point and networks
- Set up web and email filters
- Use encryption for sensitive business information
- Dispose of old computers and media safely
- Train your employees
“Develop and implement the appropriate activities to identify the occurrence of a cybersecurity event.” -NIST
- Install and update anti-virus, anti-ransomware, and anti-malware solutions
- Maintain and monitor logs
- Review anomalies and other events
- Create and implement detection processes
“Develop and implement the appropriate activities to take action regarding a detected cybersecurity event.” -NIST
- Develop a plan for disasters and info security incidents
- Communicate to key stakeholders immediately and completely
- Mitigate impact of attacks
- Develop and implement improvements
“Develop and implement the appropriate activities to maintain plans for resilience and to restore any capabilities or services that were impaired due to a cybersecurity event.” -NIST
- Make regularly scheduled backups of important business data/info
- Ensure backups are recoverable at least annually
- Consider cyber insurance
- Make improvements to processes/procedures/tech
Six Small Business Steps to Improve Your Cybersecurity Protection
To get 2022 off to the right start, in terms of Cybersecurity protection, John shared SIX specific steps that small businesses can take immediately, to reduce or prevent email fraud.
Step One: Be cautious opening unexpected emails.
- Verify the domain and the username
- If there are links within the email, hover to verify
- If still not sure, ask your IT professional to review with you
Step Two: Be vigilant opening expected emails.
- Expected emails may actually be malicious
- If sender is real and they are compromised
- If sender appears real but is actually a look-alike
- If there are links within the email, hover to verify
- Contact the user via phone or a separate email to verify
- Ask your IT professional to review with you
Step Three: Use strong passwords with two-factor authentication.
- Protects against account compromise
- Compromised accounts can be configured as forwarders
- Two-factor option is to use password-less approval prompt
Step Four: Implement an email phishing training platform.
- Increases awareness of email content
- Aids in preventing unwanted clicks
Step Five: Implement a web content filtering platform.
- This prevents access to known bad websites
- Can stop an attack if a malicious link is accidentally clicked
Step Six: Implement an Endpoint Security platform.
- This is a last catch to malicious content
- Endpoint security may not catch everything
- Provides protection when malicious websites are not blocked
- Reduces the capability of attack
In summary, cybersecurity is no longer a “nice to have” when it comes to managing risk in your business. Companies must take proactive and ongoing steps to maintain vigilance when it comes to protecting their information, customer records, critical networks, trade secrets – virtually all data that is available on any device in your network. It is no longer a matter of “if” you are attacked, but “when” you are attacked. According to Norton, there is one cyberattack in this country every 39 seconds.
What You Get Out of Proactive Cybersecurity Protection
As John points out, however, the good news is that proactive cybersecurity can accomplish several key things: 1) minimize the number of attacks that can “get through”, 2) minimize the impact of an attack, and 3) dramatically increase the speed in which you can recover data and be back fully operational in the event a successful attack does occur.
By following the 5 NIST recommendations (Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover) you will reduce your risk and increase your peace of mind, knowing you are doing all you can to protect your business. John’s six recommendations to reduce or prevent email fraud can be addressed by any company.
Benjamin Franklin famously wrote: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” When it comes to cybersecurity, take the beginning steps now to prepare and fortify your IT ecosystem, so that you are not preparing for its failure.
We encourage you to meet with a cybersecurity specialist today to get an expert’s recommendation on how you can be prepared. If you would like to contact John Comfort, he welcomes the opportunity to speak further. As an IT cybersecurity expert, John’s company focuses on wineries and other small businesses. He can be reached at: John.Comfort@LinkedMSP.com or call him directly at 833-546-5336.