Knowing and dealing with the threats that challenge your business is essential for your company’s long-term success. And there are always lots of threats to consider: competition, cash flow, economic downturns, just to name a few. But there is one threat that can come out of the blue and put your company in serious trouble overnight.
That problem is a cyberattack. According to widely reported research by the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small companies that suffer an attack go out of business within 6 months.
How bad are cyberattacks?
A cyberattack can have many devasting consequences. Firstly, your intellectual property can be stolen and used by someone else. Imagine how a film company would suffer if it had invested millions in a new movie only to find it released on the internet before being released. Or if a company’s new product designs were being sold on the black market to other businesses.
Personal data is also a target for theft. Lose your customers’ data and you can now be fined up to €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover under the new GDPR regulation. There’s also the chance of customers taking out lawsuits, not to mention the long-term reputational damage a data breach can cause.
Another threat is the downing of your critical applications. Cyberattacks have been known to shut down entire business operations. In 2012, a targeted attack took 30,000 computers offline at the Saudi Arabian Oil Company in an attempt to stop oil production. Last year’s ransomware attacks put many hospitals out of action in the UK. These are the attacks which gain press attention but there are thousands of others that we don’t hear about.
One of the most common forms of attack is to take down a company website. If you are an eCommerce company, losing your website means losing income. The longer your site is offline, the more money you can lose. If your website files have been infected, corrupted or deleted, it could take a long time to get everything back online. For many businesses, that’s too long to recover from.
It won’t happen to me, surely?
Business owners might think that the chances of suffering a cyberattack are small, but that is a misconception. According to the Institute of Directors, there are 7 million attacks on UK small businesses every year. As the UK only has 5.4 million small businesses, that means the average company gets attacked every 9 months. 37% of companies get attacked on a monthly basis.
Small businesses are just as vulnerable as big enterprises. Those 7 million annual attacks account for 43% of all business cyberattacks in the UK. What makes small companies more vulnerable is that, according to the Small Business Trends website, 51% of them do not spend any of their budget on cybersecurity. This is perhaps why, in 2016, cyber attacks cost UK businesses in excess of £30 billion.
How to protect yourself?
If your website or system is hosted with a service provider, the key to security comes in choosing a web host that takes security seriously. First and foremost, you want them to provide strong protection against intrusion using technology such as MTvScan and FortiGate firewalls that can detect and prevent attacks from happening.
Secondly, ensure that the host provides a remote backup service. This way, if your site is attacked, your disaster recovery can be done very quickly. Fast recovery is the key to not going out of business. The sooner you are back online, the less business you lose and the more your reputation stays intact.
If you sell products on your website, you’ll also need a host that provides SSL certificates. These encrypt your customers’ payment details so that they cannot be stolen when they buy from your site. They also enhance your site’s reputation by giving you the green, secure padlock icon on users’ browsers.
Another security feature to look out for is spam filtering. 1 in every 131 emails contains malware which, if not detected, can cause your system to be infected. Anti-spam software such as SpamExperts, can trace malicious emails and prevent viruses and trojans getting anywhere near your inbox.
An often overlooked security measure is to find a host that can be there for you immediately should an attack arise. Ideally, you need a host that provides 24/7 technical support. Unlike customer support, technical support means that there is an IT expert who can help you resolve any issues you face. In the case of a cyberattack, they’ll be able to assist you in carrying out your disaster recovery in order to get your business back online as soon as possible – no matter what time of day you call.
Finally, make sure that your business has a robust password policy, ideally requiring secure authentication, and that your system uses access control so that users can only access the information they need for their work. This way, there is less chance of a hacker getting into your system or finding your most valuable data.
As a business owner, your livelihood and that of your employees is dependent on the long-term survival of your business. You don’t want that to vanish overnight because you haven’t protected your system or website securely enough. Hopefully, the points raised in this article will show you how vital web security is and what you need to do to stay protected.
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