3 steps to protect your business against cyberattacks

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The pandemic hit and your business was forced to adapt instantly to a remote work environment. You couldn’t have predicted the increased risk of cybercrime, and therefore, couldn’t have had cybersecurity education or infrastructure in place.

While we wish that cybercrime was a fictional story reserved for an epic thriller series like Mr. Robot, it’s a dark reality that isn’t only reserved for massive corporations. If you’re a Small or Midsize Business (SMB) that handles customer data then you’re a potential target for cybercriminals. It’s incredibly important to take the necessary steps to keep your data secure.

South Africa is seeing an increase in one of the most financially damaging cybercrimes, known as Business Email Compromise (BEC) – a specialist type of phishing attack designed to imitate senior executives and trick employees, customers or vendors into wiring payments to different bank accounts.

Charl Berning, Senior Forensic Manager at Hollard Insure, explains just how sophisticated this type of cybercrime has become. Victims fall prey to these scams because they seem entirely legitimate and trustworthy. The most vigilant, skeptical types of people are not safe.

“These syndicates use various methods, including malicious software that can infiltrate company networks and intercept legitimate email threads about billing and invoices,” comments Berning. “They can also manipulate legitimate email addresses and trick victims into believing that their fake accounts are real. Victims receive messages that look like they’re from a trusted email address, which leads them to reveal very sensitive information, and this is where the trouble begins.”

There are simple yet essential steps that you can take to protect yourself, your business and your devices from cybercrime.

Install those software updates. Not tonight, not tomorrow – right now.

Those mobile, computer and application software updates aren’t just to improve performance or fix bugs – they’re also for cybersecurity purposes. Cybercrimes constantly change, so software developers change their defences to continue preventing them. Therefore, by keeping your applications and devices updated, you’re protecting your data from the latest cybersecurity threats.

Passwords are frustrating. But they’re more crucial than ever.

Since the switch to remote work, more of us are using personal devices for work. Therefore, it’s important to keep personal and work passwords separate, to decrease the risk of unauthorised access to your business’s data. It’s also best to use long, complex passwords, with different passwords for each separate login (making it more difficult for a single cyberattack to compromise all of your private data). You can add an extra layer of cybersecurity to your accounts that are already password-protected with Multi Factor Authentication.

Be hyper-aware of phishing emails & messages.

As we explained with BEC, sophisticated phishing attacks are a very real risk for South African businesses. As a general rule, only open emails that you’re expecting from familiar senders, and don’t respond to an email that isn’t from a reliable source. No legitimate business would ever ask to deal with your sensitive personal information (credit card numbers, bank accounts, passwords) over email, so it’s never a good idea to respond to these requests.
Stephen King one said, “there’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.” This is a tough pill to swallow, but one we’ve all had to ingest the minute the pandemic hit. It’s especially true when it comes to cybercrime – we need to adopt a mindset of preparing for a cyberattack rather than wondering whether or not it’ll happen. It’s no longer a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.”

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