While business has been conducted mostly throughout time, new challenges have presented themselves in the 21st century. Many companies have migrated at least some of their operations into a digital space. While there are endless benefits to using the internet in business, there are also some concerns. Cyber-attacks have become increasingly common, and businesses and corporations of all sizes and industries have been targeted. Thus, companies should place importance and resources into cybersecurity to protect confidential or valuable information.

What is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime, otherwise known as computer crime, is an umbrella term used to define several different types of online lawbreaking. Most commonly, these malicious crimes include identity threats and fraud, scams, or attacks on individuals or businesses. Cybersecurity is the term for the protective measures taken by companies or individuals to protect themselves and their information from these types of attacks. Several strategies can be used as part of a security protocol.

Who are the Biggest Threats and What is at Risk?

Many cyber-attacks are conducted by unknown parties that solely want to profit from their attack. For other businesses, however, many attacks can come from known parties. Most commonly, clients may wish to compromise a business’s information to be malicious or benefit financially. Corporations in competition with one another may attack each other to gain an advantage in the market. Even current or former employees may conduct a cyber-attack. Employees can do this both unintentionally and intentionally. Some may accidentally compromise information that risks business assets and proves that companies should have a reliable security procedure in place for all employees. A former and potentially angry employee could intentionally attack the company, especially with insider knowledge that they gained during their employment.

There is a lot more than money at stake when cybercrime is considered. Attacks could result in leaked customer information, including addresses, identification information, and even payment information. Businesses’ financial records could be leaked, causing potential damage to their reputation. Additionally, marketing plans, patents, or other intellectual property are all at risk. This information can be held hostage by attackers, who will only give it back if a substantial sum is paid. Frequently, even if they are paid, they choose to release the information anyhow.

Types of Attacks and Their Cost

There are many ways to exploit a website or software application, meaning that there are several avenues for an attacker to take possibly. Accessing hardware, such as computers and phones, remotely or via theft is a standard method of attack. Since many people leave their phones logged into all applications, stealing a phone from someone is the easiest way to target their business for an attack. Other methods include introducing viruses or malware to a company’s system or attacking a business’s website. Some businesses utilize third-party systems, such as Mail Chimp, to send out newsletters to customers. Cyber attackers can attack these third-party apps, damaging several companies at once. Finally, some criminals may spam a company’s email service with phishing emails or even try to gain access through unknowing employees.

If a company must pay a digital ransom to an attacker, there is a significant financial loss. Since most attacks are incredibly disruptive, there may be an additional financial loss until business resumes. The reputation loss that may occur after an attack can be severe. Other companies and clients may be hesitant to deal with companies that they feel aren’t safe or protected from cybercrime. Depending on the severity of the attack, additional costs are associated with repairing the systems and getting everything running again. In severe cases, computer and server specialists may have to be called in. Time lost due to an attack can be substantial, especially if governing bodies or authorities need to become involved.

How to Protect a Business from Attacks

Firstly, transparent policies, rules, and procedures should be instituted companywide to avoid cyber-attacks. This information should be reviewed regularly, as it will be instrumental in preventing information leaks amongst unaware employees. Even with the best plan of defense, your business might be attacked. Thus, it is critical to have a response plan in place, just in case. This will take the guesswork out of response and help a business get back up and running as soon as possible. It will also significantly reduce the stress of the situation.

Point of sale (POS) systems should be updated regularly, to ensure that they are as safe as possible. The same goes for all servers and software used by a company. Additionally, software providers should be researched and vetted to ensure that they have the company’s best interest and security at heart. Finally, data should be both backed up and encrypted regularly. This is a good, standalone practice, but it also can help minimize critical data loss in the event of a cyber-attack.