According to Forbes, cyber security joins inflation and recessions as one of the 10 biggest threats to businesses in 2023. As widespread cyber attacks continue to dominate headlines, organizations are no longer treating corporate cyber security as just an IT problem.
An overview of corporate cyber security
A recent Gartner report showed that 88% of board members regard digital security as a business risk. By 2026, half of C-Level executives will have cyber security performance requirements built into their employment contracts.
As cyber attacks become more sophisticated, the financial implications become greater. Modern organizations need to treat cyber security as the business risk it is, and take the right steps to mitigate attacks.
What is corporate cyber security and why is it so important?
In 2022, the global average cost of a data breach rose 2.6% from $4.24 million in 2021 to 4.35 million – the highest it’s ever been. This less-than-savory statistic illustrates just one case for investment in digital protection: the cost of a breach is rising.
Corporate cyber security concerns the methods we use to prevent attacks on organizations. Specifically, it refers to different methods and tactics corporations use to protect systems, users, and data. It needs a blend of people, processes, and technology to stop data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage.
The best practices for corporate cyber security involve all facets of a business, from device protection to employee training. To justify the necessary time and investment, first we need to understand the risks of a cyber security breach.
Understanding the risks of a cyber security breach
Cyber attacks have the potential to affect people, processes, customers, and the viability of a business itself. The challenge for IT leadership is to communicate these cyber security risks to the board, and secure buy-in for long-term business continuity.
Potential financial losses
Financial losses at the hands of cybercriminals can be huge. By the year 2025, cyber attacks are set to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually. Organizations face bills such as:
- Repairing or replacing damaged systems: businesses need to quarantine hardware and software, analyze logs, and fix vulnerabilities.
- Covering losses from data breaches: the average cost of a data breach in the US was $4.35 million in 2022.
- Paying legal fees: fines such as breaches of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) can be as high as $100,000 per month.
Negative impact on reputation
Reputational damage leads to indirect financial losses for companies. Customers whose data has been compromised may lose trust. Employees may feel let down by poor processes, or external stakeholders may question their involvement with the company.
While it’s hard to calculate the exact costs of reputational damage, IBM’s 2022 Cost of a Data Breach report estimates that lost business costs (including reputation) amounted to $1.42 million.
Companies are legally obliged to protect customer and employee data. If they fail to do so, or to disclose cybercrime, they could face substantial legal fees. T-Mobile was forced to pay $350 million after 37 million customers’ details were exposed in 2021.
Disruption of business operations
Cyber attacks can also disrupt essential day-to-day processes. For example, many organizations implement a data breach recovery plan. This can involve ongoing investigations into how the breach happened, taking teams away from their day jobs and disrupting productivity.
Loss of confidential information and data
Unauthorized access to privileged files could lead to lost confidential information. This could be anything from passwords to intellectual property.
Damage to the business’ competitive advantage
Competitive advantage often lies in a company’s intellectual property or trade secrets. If your secret sauce becomes public knowledge thanks to cybercriminals, it can be harder to stand out.
Understanding the types of cyber security threats to organizations
A robust cyber security strategy needs to evolve with threats. According to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report, threat actors have become significantly more sophisticated. Organizations can stay one step ahead of hackers by keeping abreast of the latest threats, including:
Malware attacks use malicious software to target computer information systems, networks, or individual devices. This software exploits vulnerabilities to carry out attacks such as deleting or stealing sensitive data. Broadly, malware attacks come in three categories:
- Viruses: these are pieces of code that copy themselves and corrupt systems or delete data.
- Worms: these are self-replicating pieces of malware that infect multiple computers on a network.
- Trojans: these typically attach to computer programs and appear harmless, but once opened, can inject malicious code into systems.
Ransomware attacks block a user’s access to a computer system in exchange for a ransom demand. Cybercriminals may also threaten to expose personal data. In the first half of 2022, there were 236 million ransomware attacks worldwide, including:
- Cryptojacking: this involves hijacking a device such as a computer or smartphone and mining cryptocurrencies against the owner’s will.
- Locker ransomware: this is a type of virus that infects devices and locks files, forcing users to pay a ransom in return for the data.
- Scareware: these are malicious computer programs that convince users to download or buy unsafe software, such as fake antivirus protection.
- Mobile ransomware: this type of ransomware code infects mobile devices such as smartphones with the aim of leaking or destroying data.
- RaaS (Ransomware as a Service): this is a cybercrime business wherein hackers pay ransomware operators to write software to launch attacks, such as stealing sensitive information.
- MBR (Master Boot Record): this type of ransomware attack wipes the MBR, which contains the information in the first sector of a hard disk or removable drive.
- DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service): this attack seeks to bring down a server, service, or network by flooding it with bot traffic.
A phishing attack attempts to trick users by encouraging them to do something like open an attachment which is concealing a threat. Common examples include:
- Email phishing: these emails encourage end users to open attachments or enter personal data.
- Spear phishing: unlike email phishing, these attacks are not en masse – rather, they are targeted, for example, at financial services or public figures.
- Smishing: these attacks involve sending malicious links to cell phones through SMS.
- Vishing: these are voice calls claiming to be high-profile bodies like government agencies, trying to access private information.
- Whaling: these are targeted attacks aimed at senior executives, whereby hackers act as positions of authority.
Denial of Service (Dos) attacks
A Dos attack tries to shut down a machine or network by flooding web servers with traffic. Some examples include:
- UDP flooding: sending large numbers of User Datagram Protocol packets to random ports on a remote host.
- SYN flooding: sending multiple connections to a server without finalizing them, thereby preventing the server from responding to legitimate traffic.
- DNS amplification: sending a Domain Name System name lookup request to one or more public servers using a spoof source IP address.
An SQL injection lets hackers exploit vulnerabilities and interfere with queries that a web application makes to its database. This allows cybercriminals to access sensitive data, delete it, or perform DDoS attacks.
Man in the Middle attacks (MitM)
A Man in the Middle attack is when a hacker gains unauthorized access to a conversation between a user and an application. These are common when people use unsecured WiFi hotspots, and attackers exploit security vulnerabilities.
One of the most common corporate cyber security attacks is password attacks, whereby threat actors try to gain access using legitimate user credentials. These attacks often exploit the human error of end users – in 2022, around half of all data breaches began with compromised credentials.
Likewise, password reuse and leaked passwords from previous breaches present a significant threat to organizations. With human error and stolen credentials providing such a common entry point to corporate networks, organizations should employ technological solutions such as multi-factor authentication (MFA).
Information security is a critical concern for corporates, particularly where ex or even current employees are concerned. If, for example, a disgruntled former employee leaves and still has access to certain files, they could cause damage to day-to-day operations.
The damage from insider threats could be anything as minor as posting on social media accounts to data breaches or leaking critical secret information.
Best practices: how to protect your business from cyber attacks
From a rigorous risk management strategy to the latest cybersecurity solutions, several things can help protect organizations from critical financial and reputational damage.
Single sign-on (SSO) allows users to use one set of login credentials to access multiple applications. It helps to maintain corporate cyber security by providing a more frictionless login experience, especially when combined with MFA.
SSO reduces the need to recall passwords, potentially lowering the risk of human error and repeated passwords.
Apply multi-factor authentication
MFA solutions ask users to provide a second verification factor beyond their passwords. Should a user’s credentials fall into a cybercriminal’s hands, MFA provides an additional layer of security that helps protect systems and data.
MFA can be required on each login, or as frequently as needed through granular controls. For example, if users have moved to an unrecognized device, the MFA solution will require further verification before allowing the user to log in.
IS Decisions helps customers implement MFA in three simple steps:
- Implement MFA with UserLock
- Choose from multiple MFA methods and deploy the right solution for your workforce
- Configure granular MFA to set user access conditions, such as a workstation, server, or connection type, according to your security needs
Keep software and security up to date
Regular updates and patches help keep organizations safe against the latest attacks. These can be programmed to trigger automatically, but it’s also wise to set manual reminders to verify and audit systems.
Configure and use firewalls
Firewalls are an essential for corporate cyber security – determining which traffic is safe and which is dangerous. They can filter out threat actors and prevent computer or network attacks.
Use antivirus software
Antivirus software offers a three-pronged approach to corporate cyber security. First, it prevents attacks with threat detection. It then neutralizes malware, and finally disposes of it, with regular updates to keep on top of even the most sophisticated attacks.
Run regular cyber security training for staff
Corporate cyber security attacks can come from vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, but they can also come from employees. In 2022, a massive 82% of data breaches involved human error to some extent.
Everything from password security to reviews on the latest cyber attacks can keep employees informed. Training goes beyond IT teams – it’s an essential risk management strategy. Some larger organizations may even have a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) to keep all teams in check.
Even with extensive training, mistakes can happen. That’s why it’s vital to pair cyber awareness training with technology, like MFA, that protects systems from user error and compromised credentials.
Implement security protocols
On top of training, the right security protocols set standards for the whole organization:
- Encryption: turns sensitive data into meaningless strings to prevent unauthorized viewing should the data be intercepted. Encryption is a must for organizations that regularly transfer, handle, or store any sensitive data.
- Intrusion detection systems: cybersecurity teams may suggest monitoring software that sends alerts when suspicious traffic tries to access systems.
- Access controls: access management should form an integral part of security awareness training.
Why is corporate cyber security so important?
From cloud security to access management, corporate cyber security is a modern-day business risk. No longer should it be a concern solely for the IT department, but for anybody with access to corporate networks.
Strong corporate cyber security practices need the right combination of processes, people, and technology. From regular risk assessments to training and MFA, preparation can protect your business at all levels.
Ignoring corporate cyber security runs the risk of financial damage, reputational damage, and interruption of day-to-day operations. By implementing threat mitigation through the UserLock, organizations in all sectors can stay one step ahead of modern threats.
Keen to learn more about network security for your business?
Contact us to learn more about how IS Decisions’ MFA and access management solutions can improve your organization’s security posture.