With the world at a standstill and the stock market succumbing to the ill-fated Covid-19 pandemic, cybercriminals are adding on to the cyberthreat landscape and making the most of the ongoing crisis. In recent years, sophisticated cyberattacks have targeted corporate data and assets, as well as those of governments, school systems, utilities, and financial institutions.
A cyber security breach can threaten businesses regardless of their size, but larger companies run the risk of losing a greater proportion of the growth they have worked so hard to build. Therefore, it is no surprise that companies have been on high alert as a result of a growing number of cybersecurity threats. The importance of cyber security risks is now greater than ever, and you need to understand how to protect your business – regardless of its size. Fortunately, precautions can be taken to prevent disaster for your company.
Here are a few of the major cybersecurity risks that founders should be wary of:
Whether individuals, businesses, or organizations, cybersecurity is an issue that anyone who has a device with access to the internet must deal with. It is a breeding ground for malicious software due to the widespread use of technology and its reliance on connectivity.
In one classic example from 2021, 23% of employees opened phishing emails and input data when presented with a form. Consequently, this means that employees are likely to expose their organisation to a cyberattack resulting from a phishing attempt. Research also indicated that 53% of employees opened phishing messages whilst 7% downloaded and opened attachments. However, only 7% reported the simulation to their IT departments.
Despite its alarming nature, phishing can be identified and prevented. Here are a few basic guidelines to follow:
- Stay Informed About Phishing Techniques: Phishing scams are continually being developed. By not staying on top of these new phishing techniques, you could inadvertently fall victim to one. Look out for newly discovered phishing scams. Being aware of them before they ensnare you will lower your risk of getting snared by them. Maintaining security at the forefront of your organization by conducting ongoing security, awareness, training and simulated phishing exercises is highly recommendable for IT administrators.
- Take A Moment To Think Before You Click: Clicking on links on trusted sites is safe. However, clicking on random links in emails and instant messages may not be the smartest move. You can, however, pause before clicking links that you are unsure of. It may look exactly like the official website when you click the link in a phishing email that claims to come from a legitimate company. Your name may not appear in the email when you are asked to fill in the information. Therefore, rather than clicking on a potentially dangerous link, go directly to the source.
- Set Up An Anti-Phishing Toolbar: The anti-phishing toolbars that come with the most popular Internet browsers can be customized. Toolbars like these check your current site against a list of known phishing sites while you are browsing. The toolbar will alert you if you stumble upon a malicious website.
The most common technique used in corporate blackmail is the use of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to force retailers and payment providers into protection rackets. According to this article, “Typical DDoS attacks deluge companies with requests for information that paralyse web sites for up to 24 hours or more. If they don’t pay, they use DDoS to bring online sites to a standstill thus causing huge losses of revenue.”
There have also been cases where false information has been published on rogue websites in order to generate bad publicity for founders and businesses. One such entity indicted in theft, fraud, money laundering, online scams, and worse, is FinTelegram – the financial internet blog that thousands have been tricked to lean on for financial gossip. In several online exposés, it has been revealed that FinTelegram is owned by three convicted criminals: Werner Boehm, Elfriede Sxt, and Alfred Dobias are widely known for piling pressure on their adversaries while manipulating the ongoing cases they are also involved in. Beyond any reasonable doubt, this is the same group convicted in a Canadian court back in 2017, following their illicit attempts to defraud the BirtRush company came to nothing.
Several sources online allege the blog is engaged in financial blackmail and racketeering – removing articles that disparage companies or people in exchange for a hefty fee. There are also consultancy services to remove negative articles from FinTelegram, Fintel.news, etc, typically involving cash or Bitcoin.
Nevertheless, stay hopeful. There are several viable strategies available for business founders who find themselves frequently subjected to corporate blackmail. If you are a victim or often vulnerable to corporate blackmail, here are some actionable steps you may need to take:
- Avoid engaging with the blackmailer;
- Neither negotiate nor pay the ransom;
- Ensure all communications and evidence are preserved;
- Obtain the support of a trustworthy person for documentation;
- Set up your online privacy preferences;
- Configure online alerts;
- Report the crime to law enforcement immediately;
- Get legal advice from an experienced internet attorney.
Beyond severe financial damage, hackers can access systems to obtain sensitive information, steal money or crypto and hold businesses and their leaders to ransom. Meanwhile, businesses are often left in a bind as their confidential data and critical assets fall prey to malicious attacks.
To understand the immense impact of hacking, statistics show that hackers attack a computer with internet access every 11 seconds. Hence, every new business must hire a great head of data security from the outset. Even the smallest efforts can make a difference.
On a positive note, here are some basic tips to help prevent hacking in business:
- Change Passwords Regularly: This is one of your best defences against hackers and bad actors attempting to access confidential information.
- Update Your Software: This can be your content management system platform, cloud-based tool or any other program you use.
- Use Multi-Factor Authentication: This is a great way to thwart hackers since they are unlikely to gain access to the secondary device.
- Limit Employee Access To Sensitive Information: Too often, employees have access to sensitive information that is vulnerable to human error. To reduce the risk of a system breach, ensure that only the most trusted team members are allowed access to sensitive data, and all outgoing employees’ accounts are deleted once they leave the company.
The goal of ransomware is to prevent a user or organization from accessing their computer files. Due to the fact that these malware encrypt files and demand a ransom payment to decrypt them, organizations are put into a position where paying a ransom is the easiest and least expensive way to regain access to their files.
C10p is a notorious hacker group that targeted several high-profile victims since 2019 including three American universities: Stanford University Medical School, the University of Maryland and the University of California, demanding a payment to either maintain their systems or to not publish material they had stolen.
Similarly, FinTelegram turns on former colleagues who have worked with the owners of FinTelegram and refused to cooperate with their criminal ways, accusing them of criminal activity. Their sites are used to systematically lay out false allegations against these colleagues and highlight their involvement in said criminal activities. Allegedly, the blog is engaged in financial blackmail and racketeering – removing articles that disparage companies or people in exchange for a hefty fee.
To prevent ransomware, it’s important to invest in cybersecurity-a program that provides real-time protection against advanced malware attacks such as ransomware. Next, you should regularly create secure backups of your data. You should also keep your system and software up-to-date. And finally, stay informed. Social engineering is one of the most common ways that computers become infected with ransomware. Educate yourself and your employees about how to detect spam, suspicious websites, and other scams.
Cyber security threats are not slowing down. On the contrary, they are only becoming more complex and destructive. As a result, businesses must actively protect their data and networks through holistic measures anchored by a cyber-risk management plan. This means that the biggest risk for every business founder is taking no risks at all. The idea of secure data governance and scalable identity management in the volatile environment should be undertaken, ideally from the get-go.