Top 5 Cybersecurity Risks Facing Businesses Today

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The digital era: what a time to be alive! It’s easier to stay in contact from a distance, make financial transactions, shop for necessities (or luxuries), and conduct business. Lucky us, right?

The answer is undoubtedly yes, with an and… thrown in for good measure. We’re indeed in a period of life where things are easier and more accessible than ever. Of course, consumers and businesses aren’t the only ones benefiting from the digitization of modern life. Cybercrime is growing exponentially, and businesses in particular are at significant risk.

The Era of Cyber (In)security

It’s been said that if cybercrime were a country, it would be the third-largest economy in the world. That’s a pretty sobering statistic, mainly owing to the value of attacks against organizations and enterprises.

Cybercriminals are attacking from all directions, and businesses must stay on their toes to avoid becoming a statistic. Digitized data is particularly vulnerable, and it’s more than an inconvenience if it falls into the wrong hands. Compromised data can be financially and reputationally costly and only takes a single exploited weakness to trigger a wave of fines, regulatory issues and brand damage.

Top Risks to Businesses

Vigilance is vital to staying safe, but where and how do you begin implementing robust security measures to protect your data, end users, and customers? To start, it’s crucial to understand the top risks your business faces today.

Insider Threats

Cybercriminals are not only opportunistic strangers. In the modern era, threats can come from inside your network.

Insider threats are those posed by people who don’t need to breach security to reach your network, as they’ve already been granted access. That means employees, contractors, partners, vendors, suppliers, and anyone else you trust with your network or data can pose a threat.

Of course, not all insider threats are purposeful. Human error can be just as costly, as any employee or third-party partner can click the wrong link, use an insecure network connection, or leave a device unattended, leading to a security breach.

That doesn’t mean deliberate insider threats are not a problem, however. Employees with privileged access may be tempted to sell trade secrets, bring information to a new company as a bargaining chip for career advancement, or sabotage your information as retaliation for discipline or firing. Insider threats can exist in any department or team, whether accidental or deliberate.

Social Engineering

Covering a wide range of attacks, Social Engineering refers to any cybercrime that starts with gaining the trust of an end user. That can mean masquerading as a trustworthy colleague or simply sending a believable message (including an SMS or phone call) with a request for information.

Social engineering attacks are particularly threatening because they prey on the trust or naivety of an end user to wreak havoc. With remote and hybrid workforces, social engineering attacks are even more prominent – end users have grown accustomed to receiving requests for information or performing actions via digital means.

Traditional security, like encryption, policies, and security software, are less effective. Organizations must also communicate well and often with their end users to ensure they encourage a healthy sense of skepticism about messages and requests.

Ransomware

A form of malware, ransomware is a nefarious attack that can be catastrophic for businesses. All it takes is one exploited system weakness or false move by a user, and malware is installed on your network. From there, your valuable data or systems are locked until you pay a hefty price to regain access.

Ransomware attacks are very effective as businesses are held at the mercy of their attackers. Without access to their data or systems, business comes to a standstill. That means the value of these attacks is not only the price tag set by the attackers but the losses incurred when a company cannot conduct business.

While the dream for cybercriminals is a successful ransomware attack on a large company with deep pockets, no one is hidden from their radar. Small businesses are often targeted as bad actors know they likely lack resources to back up data or otherwise recover from downtime and are most likely to find a way to pay the ransom so they can get back to business.

Artificial Intelligence

Threats exploiting artificial intelligence (AI) vulnerabilities are evolving faster than any other category, particularly as interest in AI tools grows. Emergent technologies are alluring for cybercriminals, as organizations are less likely to have policies and protections.

At the time of writing, AI is a non-standard attack vector. The most considerable related risk to businesses today concerning AI is data leakage. AI tools such as large language models (LLMs) and GPT do not consider confidentiality. As such, several organizations worldwide have banned GPT tools to prevent confidential and privileged information – such as code and trade secrets – from falling into the wrong hands.

Cloud Vulnerabilities

Along with digitizing processes across the organization, our modern world is predominantly cloud-based. This has been a tremendous help, particularly for the remote and hybrid workforce, as cloud-based tools can be accessed from anywhere, as long as an internet connection is available.

Cloud security vulnerabilities can present a cyber threat to organizations. It’s imperative to ensure the third-party platforms you enlist to help run your business take security seriously. Data transmission must be encrypted and stored securely, and multi-factor authentication is recommended to keep end-user accounts protected. Apply the same stringent security assessment to APIs, as API security is a common attack vector.

Learn more about governance, risk and compliance professional certification in The Ultimate Guide to the CGRC.

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