Time and again, we hear stories of enterprises falling prey to cyber attacks. The main reason why businesses are easily victimized by online attackers is the fact that not all companies are prepared to protect their systems against hackers and other cyber criminals. Of course, this includes the financial vulnerabilities of a company. In the United Kingdom, only around 45% of companies are financially prepared for cyber security breaches. The story is quite the same in the United States as, according to a study, almost half of U.S. businesses are not prepared and do not have a backup plan in case of cyber attacks. Additionally, there are companies that have zero security measures or plans. What’s even more surprising is the fact that a number of businesses do not believe that getting secured against cyber attackers is a top priority.
Most companies look at cyber security as an issue more suited for the IT or technology department. Perhaps this is why they choose to relegate cyber security to the lesser of their priorities. Whether you agree with it or not, majority of companies do not consider cyber security as a business issue. This is why the higher ups would almost always delegate all tasks to IT.
But then, a cyber attack is more than just an entire system shutting down. It can cripple a system and, in the process, the entire company, including its stakeholders and clients/customers.
Understanding Cyber Attacks
When cyber criminals attack a system, it is exploited and becomes exposed to malware, phishing, identity theft, spamming, spyware, pharming, spoofing, viruses, Trojans and a host of other illegal online activities. In short, the system becomes completely vulnerable.
What many company leaders do not realize is that the attack does not stop there. It can go on and on, and can spread throughout the organization’s system, even exposing and endangering employees’ delicate personal information.
For example, a utilities or service company is breached. Since it holds valuable customer data, including bank accounts, a hacker can easily get into the system, steal these information and use them to their advantage. It’s not just a single department that’s affected, it’s the entire company and everyone connected to or working for it. So, imagine the domino effect a situation like this can create. Not a good picture, right?
Why Cyber Attack is a Business Matter?
The example given above is an indication that cyber security is not just a technology issue; rather, it should also be an important business matter. The effects of a security breach go all the way to the deepest recesses of the organization.
While it is true that one of the major effects is a dent on its finances, a company is bound to go through more serious issues as a result of a cyber attack. Shareholders, for example, will question the breach. Why was it allowed to happen? Why was the system not properly secured? These and other questions are indications of shareholders losing their trust in the company. As a result, the business’ reputation will be damaged. And this can boomerang all the way to the clients or customers, who will then lose confidence in the enterprise. Customers will no longer feel safe or protected, especially if you consider the possibility of their personal details and other sensitive information being leaked or stolen.
The loss of stakeholder and customer trust can greatly impact the over-all performance of a business. It can even lead to the downfall of a company.
This domino effect is the biggest reason why organizations should consider giving more importance to cyber security, and for them to acknowledge that cyber attacks are serious matters.
What Can Businesses Do?
Instead of looking for somebody to blame, company leaders should sit down with their technology/IT heads so they can come up with a solid plan against cyber attackers. This can also be a good opportunity for both parties to draw a program that will help everyone in the company learn everything that they need to know about cyber attacks and how these can affect businesses (and individual lives).
Here are some suggestions for what should be done to establish a solid cyber security system:
- Everyone in the company should be involved – from the big bosses down to the service personnel. As it is nowadays, when a cyber attack happens, only the IT leaders and staff are able to understand the situation and find solutions. If everyone understands even just the basics of a cyber attack, it will be easy for the IT department to come up with a solutions process. Likewise, this can help everyone understand the risks that come with cyber attacks.
- It is important for everyone to have a basic idea of the different patterns of cyber attack. This includes sending suspicious emails, cyber espionage, credit and debit card skimming and point-of-sale intrusions, among many others. If an enterprise is able to properly educate its people, it will be easier to form strategies and plans-of-action since they know the patterns they need to avoid and fight.
- The executive and IT team should know where the company’s most valuable data are kept. Additionally, these data should be routinely backed up. They should check out possible offsite storage options, too.
- There should be a process for examining the actual cyber attack risk and the sensitive or critical information that can be affected.
- The IT security team should come up with a two-step process combining response and remediation to ensure that cyber crimes are properly handled.
- Along with the company’s major leaders, the stakeholders, communications experts and IT personnel, there should be a clear and complete list of what-could-bes and what-can-happens. This will help the group come up with a good response plan. Communication should be a valuable part of every plan-of-action.
- Finally, seal your company’s cyber security measures by getting it insured. Look for an insurance agency that offers comprehensive cyber security packages.
Of course, the first step should be for your company – and everyone involved in running it on a day-to-day basis – to acknowledge the importance of cyber security. Once you get through this step, you will be ready to protect your business from cyber attacks.
Photo courtesy of Florian F. (Flowtography).