Advancements in technology have made digital solutions more affordable for small business owners, leveling the playing field and enabling competitiveness. Unfortunately, the same digital tools that help businesses can also expose business owners to a wider range of potential online dangers from hacking, tracking, and malware.
Stats about Threats to Your Business
Data breaches (external threats) and leaks (internal threats) costs businesses millions of dollars each year. On average, one hour of downtime costs individual businesses just over $100,000, and each breach results in about seven hours of downtime. That’s a cost that none but the biggest companies can absorb.
To make matters worse, it can take up to seven months to detect a breach, so a lot of damage can occur when there is no system in place to detect threats as they occur. In addition, as frightening as they are, these statistics don’t take into account hidden costs such as loss of business and damage to an organization’s reputation. Most small businesses that suffer a ransomware attack close within six months.
Where are your biggest threats coming from, and what’s your best defense against them? Read on to find out.
The Growing Threat of Ransomware
Ransomware is not new, but a record-breaking number of attacks over the past few years have commandeered headlines. Ransomware is the practice of hacking into a computer or network and locking out the rightful owners and administrators until they pay a ransom. This is usually done under threat of releasing or deleting sensitive data, such as passwords or personal information. Some of the hardest hit industries and favorite targets of attack are finance and healthcare.
Ransomware attacks are difficult to detect until your access is denied, and many business owners decide to simply pay the criminals rather than risk a public relations and financial disaster. The other alternative to paying the ransom is to completely reformat your computer, which will also result in data loss unless you backup your system as recommended.
The solution is to prevent ransomware from taking hold in the first place, which can be accomplished with anti-virus software and diligent system monitoring.
Know Your Spyware: An Overview
The most common threat on the internet is spyware. Spyware can take many forms, and almost everyone who hasn’t been a victim has at least heard of it. Spyware is used by cyber criminals and other troublemakers for everything from resource hijacking and identity theft to cyber-stalking. Globally, spyware has affected 978 million people, and cost $172 billion in financial loses. That’s just in 2017 alone.
Spyware is a form of malware. Each kind serves a different purpose. Here are the most common:
- Adware: Used for advertising and marketing purposes, this type of tracking software is picked up while browsing the internet or downloading programs that add unwanted third-party apps like browser tool bars. They track your browser history and online activity to provide feedback to marketers. While not necessarily dangerous, it is intrusive and often affects computer performance. It can also live on your computer and cause annoying popup ads.
- Trojan: Like the Trojan horse, this type of malware sneaks in as malicious code in otherwise benign programs or apps. It’s released when you open an email or play a video that contains the bad code.
- Tracking cookies: These are usually picked up at websites you visit, and work the same as adware.
- System monitors: Sometimes disguised as free programs or emojis, this stalks your every move on the internet. This can include recording keystrokes (like when you enter passwords), chats, search history, and every website you visit. It can be used for everything from gaining access to your financial accounts to blackmail.
Optional Features That Are Upgrade-Worthy
Robust anti-virus and anti-spyware programs offer protection against most threats, but how complete are they? There’s no such thing as a one-size solution because every company has different security requirements and goals.
That being said, there are some options that can beef up your security even more.
- Anti-spam: Anti-spam filters help keep junk mail—and its potentially dangerous attachments—from landing in your inbox.
- Behavioral analytics: This emerging technology uses historic incidents and trends to predict and prevent future threats.
- Firewalls: Firewall protection prevents potentially harmful websites and bad actors from penetrating your system.
Resource Hijacking: What It Is and How to Prevent It
We hear a lot about ransomware and various distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, but one threat doesn’t generate many headlines: the practice of resource hijacking. Resource hijacking is the cyber equivalent of someone splicing into your wiring and using your electricity at your expense. Hackers probe your system for vulnerabilities and find a place to insert malicious code. This allows them to “hijack” your computer networks, devices, and individual user sessions for their own purposes, which are mainly illegal. Examples of the activities hijacked resources are used for include illegal downloads, , sending spam emails, and redirecting your customers to the hacker’s own website in hopes of stealing customers’ data. Proper anti-virus software can ward off resource hijacking.
Additional Prevention Tips for Any Size Enterprise
According to industry surveys, as much as 25% of all data breaches are preventable and are usually caused by simple human error. In addition to installing appropriately selected professional anti-virus software for your business, it is essential to fully train your staff on the proper use of the anti-virus software as well as on best practices to protect sensitive information. In other words, your business security plan should include training on how to avoid threats in the first place.
Training all your employees to prevent getting hacked is as simple as 1-2-3:
- Don’t open emails from unknown senders or provide login information on emails that purport to be from legitimate senders but seem phony (such as showing a different URL when hovering over the sender’s name)
- Don’t download files or click on images from unknown senders
- Don’t click on pop-ups
The Importance of Background Scanning
One of the most advantageous features of anti-virus software is background scanning. Continuously scanning for threats allows your systems to be monitored round the clock to combat attempted breaches as they occur rather than detecting them after the fact. Robust security software also includes regularly scanning for new defenses against recently identified viruses and malware and automatic online updates to ensure that your business network is immunized against the latest threats.
The addition of machine learning technology to anti-virus and anti-spyware enables your software to analyze threats and recalibrate itself, eliminating the need to purchase new software as the old programs become obsolete.
Remain Up to Date and Secure with Tech Support
Although they share many of the same features, anti-virus software that’s created for business use generally offers a higher degree of functionality and comprehensive customer support. These features and functions vary from brand to brand, but the best of them provide:
- Phone or video consultations with customer service and technical support
- Personalized client management services
- A 24/7/365 help desk
- Periodic updates and security patches
Choosing business anti-virus software that includes responsive technical support is essential in the face of evolving threats.
The Bottom Line
It takes a certain level of knowledge and expertise to remain up to date, not to mention busy entrepreneurs don’t have much time to dedicate to security concerns. A comprehensive security plan that includes hardening your networks and connected devices against attack, thorough staff training, and continuous threat monitoring and analysis will help ward off viruses and attacks. Dedicated support teams can help you work through any issues.
Researching and Selecting Antivirus Software for Your Business
After a business has outlined their core requirements, there are websites out there making selecting antivirus software simple. These tools, such as TEC, lets you compare top antivirus software solutions side-by-side. Users can filter results by price point, features, platform and business size. By empowering users to fine-tune solutions based on their requirements, the selection process is streamlined.