Were you aware? October is Cyber Security Awareness Month. As more companies move in to the online space, computer security is becoming increasingly important. You need to know how to protect your company from costly data loss. This Cyber Security Month, the Alt-Tech team has doubled down on helping businesses learn about cyber security. Find out the hidden costs of a cyber attack and learn what you can do to protect your business from phishing scams, ransomware, and other cyber threats.  

What is a Cyber Attack?

A cyber attack is a deliberate attempt by either an individual or an organization to breach the information system of another individual or organization. In other words, it’s someone trying to access or tamper with your information. There are many different types of cyber attacks, which makes it hard for businesses to recognize and respond to them. Some attacks aim to disable a computer and take it offline. Other attacks attempt to gain access to a computer’s data to gain personal information or to demand ransom in exchange for releasing the data.

There have been many instances of data breaches in well-known companies who house millions of peoples’ personal and financial information. However, even smaller businesses are at risk. These attacks can happen quickly and with little warning. That makes it important for businesses to recognize a cyber attack before it causes lasting damage.  

How to Recognize a Cyber Attack

The top cyber-attack method? Phishing. Phishing is designed so you’ll ‘take the bait’ offered. Essentially, it’s the crafting of a message that influences you to follow a link or click on a malicious attachment which will install malware on your computer. This can directly infect your computer’s operating system.   Here are some quick tips to recognize a phishing scam and avoid a cyber incident:

It’s Too Good to be True

Whether they’re saying you’ve won something or it’s a claim that there’s a deal on, just remember, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.  

There’s a Sense of Urgency

Phishing scams will often prompt you to act quickly because it is a limited time offer or because your account is going to expire. It’s best to ignore these. Most companies allow you ample time for offers or to update your account.  

It has a Strange Hyperlink

A link may not be what is appears. Hover over the link to view the URL where you will be directed. If there appears to be something wrong (like a spelling error or a person’s name), don’t trust it.  

There’s an Attachment

Don’t open attachments in emails you weren’t expecting. An unknown file could contain ransomware or other viruses.  

It’s from an Unusual Sender

If anything seems out of the ordinary in an email, be suspicious. Often, phishing scams are attached to long and unrecognizable email addresses. However, phishing can be done through hacked accounts, too. Even if it’s from someone you know, if anything seems out of character or unexpected about the email, don’t click on it. If you aren’t sure, call the sender directly to see if he or she sent it.  

The Cost of a Cyber Attack on Your Business

A cyber attack can have a lasting impact on your business. It can damage your reputation, consumer perception, or even your bottom line. Some of the hidden impacts of a cyber breach include:  

  • Loss or Damage to Electronic Data
  • Extra Expenses
  • Loss of Income
  • Network Security and Privacy Lawsuits
  • Extortion Losses
  • Notification Costs
  • Reputational Damage

A cyber attack can damage your existing files, rendering them unusable. Or, it can cause you to permanently lose your electronic data. When you think about the time needed to recreate (or pay to recreate) lost files, it can really add up.

If a hacker were to damage your computers, you would have to replace the equipment to maintain normal operations. Permanent damage could also mean loss of important files or documents essential to your business operations. Replacing your equipment and files is costly.

Some cyber attacks cause your computer system to become unavailable, completely shutting down your online presence. This essentially shuts down your business causing you to lose customers. For online stores, even a short period of lost sales can be devastating.

A hacker may also steal the data you store on your computers. The information could belong to your business, but it can also belong to your customers, vendors, or employees. Because you’re responsible for protecting the data, this can result in a lawsuit (or several).

Ransomware is becoming more common online. Once a hacker has collected your important information, they will hold it hostage until you pay a ransom amount. Several well-known ransom attacks have been committed recently, and the price is typically steep – whether you choose to pay the ransom or not.   You’re responsible for informing people when their information has been breached. This can be a very costly expense that involves a lot of lost time.

Your company’s reputation can be very seriously damaged by a cyber attack. Loss of personal information can cause your consumers to lose trust in your business. This may discourage people from doing business with you in the future.

All these potential effects on your business could cause lasting and expensive damage. That’s why it’s essential for you to protect your business from cyber attacks. It’s far less costly to take preventative measures than to deal with the fall-out from a cyber breach. Even if you don’t think you’re at risk, it’s important not to underestimate the costs of a cyber breach. Businesses that use online transactions may be more at risk, but even a traditional business can have their files and accounts hacked.  

How to Avoid Cyber Losses

Now that you know the risks of a cyber attack on your business, it’s time to be proactive. There are many different ways you can protect your business. The following is a detailed list of best practices you can use to protect your business’ critical infrastructure.

1. Don’t trust email links.

If you receive an email from someone you don’t know (or receive an unexpected email) be very cautious of the links. They may be infected. By clicking on them, you could be falling prey to an online scam. Always hover your mouse over a link in order to inspect the URL first. If it looks unsafe, delete the email.

2. Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi networks.

On public Wi-Fi networks you are visible to everyone else on the network. Prevent unauthorized access to your files – don’t trust open networks, especially when you’re sending files and emails.

3. Use strong passwords and change them often.

Hackers have a very easy time if you are consistently using the same password for all your accounts. Keep your accounts secure online, change your password often and make it difficult.

4. Back up your data. 

If your computer system is hacked or compromised, you’ll want to have critical data stored so you don’t have to replace it. This will also help you know what information a hacker may have access to in case of an attack.  

5. Raise awareness and educate.

Some of your employees may not know anything about internet security. Talk with your employees and share these best practices. Create a pamphlet or presentation to help employees in their daily activities.

6. Choose the right cyber security defense for your business.

Cyber security is a shared responsibility in any business. Whether you’re working in the public or private sector, cyber security is a growing concern for businesses. And, as we continue to rely more on technology processes and digital storage, the concern will continue to grow. Following these simple steps can keep your company safe and secure this month!

Want more information on cyber threats and cyber security in Canada? The Government of Canada recently launched the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. You can visit their website for more information. Or, for information specific to your business, you can book a free consultation with an Alt-Tech cyber security expert. We’ll point out spots of vulnerability in your online presence and help you set up a strategy for better protection.  

Happy Cyber Security Month from the team at Alt-Tech!