While the recent hack and subsequent closing of the Colonial Pipeline got all the headlines, quite frankly it was business as usual for cyber criminals prowling the digital world for unsuspecting victims.
As people hoarded gas at the pumps, thousands of small businesses were dealing with similar scenarios involving large payments in exchange for releasing control of their data and ability to operate. Unfortunately, most of these companies are unable to deal with what is now being called a “global digital pandemic”.
Some go out of business. Others pay exorbitant amounts of money to re-claim data and to defend themselves against customer law suits due to breaches. Most lose customers, who will never do business with them again due to the security breach.
Many of these businesses simply don’t take this threat seriously. In addition to taking appropriate security measures, they should consider purchasing relatively inexpensive cyber-security insurance. As hackers become more sophisticated, it’s only a matter of time before your business is jeopardized.
It’s no difference than purchasing flood, homeowners, and life insurance. You’re basically managing risk and based on current trends, it’s likely you’ll be whacked by a hacker who will jeopardize your business, financial security, and lifestyle.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that more than $350 million in ransomware was paid to hackers in 2020 with more than half of the victims paying. The reasons for an emboldened generation of hackers make sense.
- Hackers are more sophisticated
- Crypto-currency prevents tracking
- The increase of “virtual workplaces” opens up new avenues for cyber crooks to attack networks
- And, it’s very profitable
Combine these with hackers’ confidence that most businesses naively believe they won’t be hit – and don’t take proper precautions – and you have a perfect storm for lucrative cyber criminal activity.
As mentioned, areas that are routinely ignored are having proper back-up and the purchase of relatively inexpensive cyber security insurance. At a premium of less than $2,000 a year, businesses can cover liability for a data breach involving sensitive customer information such as Social Security, credit card, drivers’ license and bank account numbers. These policies can also cover cyber business interruption.
These hackers are confident businesses of all sizes – including neighborhood dry cleaners, law firms, major retailers, hospitals, gasoline suppliers – simply don’t believe they will be hit. But it will happen. And cyber insurance should be part of a comprehensive plan of protecting data. It should also include:
- Ongoing education on how users can recognize and ignore “phishing” efforts by hackers. It includes:
- Understand that email compromise is the biggest culprit, giving hackers access to business data
- Recognizing “copycat domains”
- Stressing to employees that they must take a few minutes to analyze any emails coming from an unfamiliar source. When identified, never download an attachment or provide information.
- Implement the most recent and sophisticated back-up systems. Once in place, users can pretty much ignore ransomware demands.
- Warn employees that the use of personal computers will not be permitted for work.
These precautions are inexpensive to implement and they all work together to give businesses the best protection against what could be financially devastating. Keep in mind that thousands of businesses – large and small – are being targeted every day.
It’s strictly a numbers game with hackers expecting several businesses to fall prey to these activities. These safeguards should be continually monitored with hopes of staying one step ahead of cyber criminals.
In today’s environment, purchasing insurance and implementing security plans are simply among the costs of doing business.
Jess Coburn is president and founder of Boca Raton-based Applied Innovations (www.appliedi.net), a firm that has helped businesses succeed in the cloud since its inception in 1999. Today Applied Innovations is one of Microsoft’s closest partners and a recognized industry leader in delivering high performance, secure cloud solutions.
Cyber insurance stock image by Den Rise/Shutterstock