A data breach is unauthorized access or release of sensitive information. This can be anything from a customer’s bank records to credit or debit card details, social security numbers, or passwords. Any information shared with a company and used for business purposes can be vulnerable to a data breach.
Why Should Businesses Care About Data Breaches?
Data breaches are an ever-present threat to companies of all sizes. The average cost of a single data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million (according to IBM Security). This represents a considerable hit to smaller firms, which may not have the budget or resources to deal with such an incident. On average, it takes around 280 days for a company even to detect a security breach, let alone deal with it.
The financial costs of a data breach include:
Investigation and forensic costs: Investigators must determine how the attack occurred and how many customer records were stolen or compromised.
Legal fees: Companies must hire legal teams to deal with the fallout from a breach and manage regulatory fines.
Victims’ compensation: Victims may be entitled to compensation if the data breach has resulted in fraud or other damages. This can often run into millions, especially if it has breached its GDPR obligations.
Penalties: Depending on your company, regulators may impose heavy fines for non-compliance with data protection laws or security standards. For example, companies that fail to comply with GDPR could face fines of up to $20 million or 4% of annual turnover (whichever is higher).
However, businesses shouldn’t only be concerned by the financial implications. They must also consider the effect on their brand and reputation. Customers don’t want to share their personal information with companies that can’t keep it secure – this has been highlighted by the recent events at Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
Cybercrime Is On The Rise
Invariably, enterprises face an ever-evolving threat landscape as cyber criminals adapt their methods to exploit the latest technologies and work habits. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, resulting in a new normal of remote working and online collaboration.
If you’re like most people, your goals for 2022 are to eat better, exercise more, and spend less time staring at a phone or computer screen. But if you’re responsible for your company’s cyber security, 2022 means stepping up your game.
Social media isn’t going anywhere. The number of people worldwide with access to it continues to increase — and so do their activity levels. That means social media is ripe not only for marketing opportunities but also for malicious attacks. It’s now a top target for cybercriminals looking to steal information and wreak havoc on an enterprise’s network.
Threat Actors Phishing For Your Data
Cybercrime is often an opportunistic crime, as criminals look for low-hanging fruit that requires little effort or skill. Social media has become such an easy target because users have been duped into thinking that these platforms are “safe” spaces to interact and engage with others. Despite all the privacy concerns surrounding the major social media platforms, users continue to post sensitive information without realizing the risks involved.
What are we talking about? We’re referring to phishing. Phishing attacks, which involve tricking a recipient into clicking on malicious links or attachments, are on the rise.
The goal is to trick the user into believing they are communicating with someone they trust — and click on a malicious link or open an attachment that will install malware or direct them to a fraudulent website.
Phishing Attacks – How They Started And the Most Common Threats Today
Phishing attacks are not entirely new. We have recently seen several high-profile incidents where phishers successfully impersonate companies like Microsoft and Google, leading users to believe they were downloading legitimate updates, which were, in fact, malware payloads. These incidents highlight the risks and threats facing the enterprise today.
At the same time, phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated. For instance, phishers take advantage of the fact that most people use mobile devices to access their emails. They can now target unsuspecting users with SMS text message phishing attempts (also known as smishing).
The most common social media phishing attacks include:
Account takeover: Hackers pretend to be authentic users by cloning their profiles and then sending messages asking for money or luring unsuspecting individuals into clicking on malicious links.
Malware: Typically delivered via malicious attachments and links, this type of phishing can infect your computer system with ransomware and viruses that can steal your login credentials or encrypt your files, making them inaccessible unless you pay a ransom fee.
Social engineering: This tactic involves tricking employees into disclosing confidential information such as passwords, bank details, or credit card numbers under false pretenses. For example, a hacker might pose as an employee asking for login details for a new system or someone from IT requesting remote access.
Why Is Phishing Such a Problem?
Attackers prey on the human tendency to trust. They use email, SMS, or social media to gain that trust and create a sense of urgency. In many cases, they impersonate someone you know or trust — like a bank, government authority, family member, or friend.
The best defense against phishing is awareness. Knowing what’s suspicious and spotting the signs of a phishing attack can help you take action and protect yourself from becoming a victim.
It’s important to know that phishing attacks have largely moved from email to social media. The major social media sites have become new targets for attackers. Attackers have set up fake social media accounts to solicit information about users and their organizations or send links that lead to malware-infected sites. LinkedIn is being used most frequently by attackers, followed by Twitter and Facebook.
Attacks are also increasing in sophistication, making them harder to detect. Some of these attacks use artificial intelligence and machine learning to create fake accounts that look legitimate.
Cyber Criminals Sending Fake Messages From Social Sites
Hackers will create a fake social media account or use an existing one to send messages that contain malware or pose as a trusted person asking for information such as bank login credentials. Social media phishing scams are more difficult to spot than traditional email phishing scams because they often look like legitimate posts or messages.
Some of the most common forms of social media phishing include:
- Messages from friends, family, or coworkers requesting urgent assistance, such as money or personal information, help them get out of a financial or legal situation.
- Posts about giveaways or contests that require you to provide your personal information before entering.
- Messages from fake accounts posing as legitimate brands offering free products or services in exchange for your personal information.
- Messages from friends, family, or coworkers containing links that contain malware.
Research indicates that phishing has been the leading cause of data breaches for mid-sized businesses. With social media playing a more significant role in business communications, it’s no surprise that phishing attacks target social media platforms to gain access to sensitive information.
Attackers often target multiple employees at once with spear-phishing — a targeted attack sent to only a few people to whom the messages are closely tailored to — and they rely on social engineering to trick recipients into taking action.
The most common tactic is to link recipients to a malicious website to be infected with malware or tricked into divulging sensitive information. Often, these websites mimic popular sites like Google Drive or Dropbox, which can help attackers hide in plain sight.
The Enterprise Is a Prime Target for Phishing Attacks
It’s no secret that phishing attacks are a massive pain for enterprises—but do you know why there are so many?
There’s a lot to consider:
- They’re easy to do. It takes only one employee who clicks on the wrong thing for an entire company to be in trouble.
- The potential reward is high, so the cost-benefit ratio is worth it for hackers.
- The victim pool is large. There are many companies out there, and they all have employees who could potentially fall for a phishing attack.
- Phishing techniques are very effective. Phishing works because it tricks people into giving up sensitive information without their knowledge or consent.
Phishing Attacks Are a Numbers Game
Phishing attacks are a data-driven business—a successful attack nets your sensitive information like passwords, which can then be used to access bank accounts and other valuable information.
It’s a simple matter of math: There are more phishing attacks on enterprises because they are most likely to have the sensitive data and credentials that attackers want.
Attacks tend to focus on enterprises because they’re a gold mine of valuable information—and vulnerabilities. Because enterprises are often substantial and have many employees, there’s a lot of data flowing between them and their clients, making it easy for hackers to get lost in the shuffle.
Additionally, enterprise employees are often busy and stressed, and they may not always have time to double-check that everyone they’re communicating with is who they say they are. And lastly, enterprises typically have dozens of employees across many different departments, which means there might not always be someone around to keep track of suspicious emails or messages (or to notice when there is more than one kind of suspicious email being sent).
Attackers rely on your employees to let their guard down for just a split second and click a link or open an attachment in an email that appears to be legitimate. If this happens just once, it can have massive consequences for your organization. If it happens multiple times, it can truly be catastrophic.
Use These Strategies to Protect Your Enterprise
The best way to prevent phishing attacks is through education about the tactics used by attackers. This can be done through training, reminders, and other methods that highlight the dangers and what to anticipate.
The second most effective tactic is to have a robust password policy that requires users to use long, complex passwords using a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.
Another important aspect of prevention is to make sure all software is up to date with the latest patches and security fixes. This includes operating systems, browsers, and any other applications used on the system.
Beyond this, some tools can mitigate phishing attacks, such as firewalls with URL filtering capabilities that block known phishing sites. Some tools check links within emails and browser sessions to make sure they are safe before allowing them to be opened or followed.
Type website addresses directly into your browser. Avoid using bookmarks when possible.
Other tips to prevent phishing, include:
- Using multi-factor authentication.
- Staying cautious even if the sender appears to be authentic — they could have been hacked.
- Watching out for misspelled words and bad grammar – scammers often use poor or bizarre sounding English, particularly if they are using AI to create their messages.
- Not replying to any messages that ask for your personal or financial details – even if it looks like it’s from someone you trust.
- Averting temptation by special offers – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Enabling account recovery: Account recovery allows you to regain access to your account even if someone else has gained control of it through a phishing attack. Google offers this service for its users, enabling them to regain access to their account even if they don’t have access to their phone number or email address. When you allow account recovery, you’ll be asked to add a backup phone number and choose some questions that only you know the answers to so that Google can verify that it’s you.
It’s easy to think of cyber security as an IT problem. But it’s an enterprise problem that affects the entire organization.
Not sure if your company needs a cyber security strategy? Here are four reasons why it does:
- Cyber security is a business risk.
- Technology is everywhere.
- Employees will ignore cyber security if you don’t address it.
- Customers expect to do business securely.
Is your company’s sensitive data protected?
– Are you missing the fundamentals of IT security?
– What happens if your company doesn’t invest in cyber security?
The digital era has connected people and businesses in previously unimaginable ways. Unfortunately, it has also created new threats to consumer and business data. Criminals have used technological advances to attack companies, from employee smartphones to servers. The consequences of a data breach can be devastating to both consumers and businesses, including identity theft, financial loss, loss of intellectual property, damaged brand reputation, and even bankruptcy.
Despite the dangers, many companies fail to take the necessary precautions to protect their sensitive information. Only one-third of small business owners believe that they are likely to be a target of cybercriminals. In reality, most breaches occur at small businesses where security is less robust than larger companies.
In today’s digital economy, being aware of potential cybersecurity threats and taking steps to protect your data is critical if you want to stay ahead of hackers looking for a weak link in your system.