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    Security Trends – Q2 2024

    Small businesses are under increasing cyberattack threat. The global cost of cybercrime is predicted to skyrocket, reaching a staggering $23.84 trillion by 2027, compared to $8.44 trillion in 2022 (Statista’s Cybersecurity Outlook).

    While a single solution may not exist, a layered defense is crucial. Businesses should implement a comprehensive security and data backup system, along with considering strong cybersecurity insurance. This helps protect the company and its employees in case a cyberattack occurs.

    This article dives into the most common cybersecurity threats facing businesses in 2024.

    Password Phishing & Compromise

    Phishing and social engineering have long been the most prevalent and effective cyberattacks plaguing small businesses. In the US, they remain the top cyberthreat, with variations like spear-phishing and business email compromise further amplifying their reach. Notably, the third quarter of 2023 witnessed a staggering 173% surge in phishing incidents, jumping from 180.4 million to a concerning 493.2 million attempts.

    Phishing attacks prioritize passwords because they are the gateways to your data. In a small business, a single compromised password for a platform like Microsoft 365 can be a master key, granting attackers easy access to a domino effect of further accounts and critical company data.

    Businesses are also vulnerable due to weak passwords, often stemming from a lack of awareness about the potential damage they can cause. This makes it significantly easier for cybercriminals to crack passwords through brute-force methods, like using “password-spray” malware that bombards hundreds of accounts with common passwords.

    How To Prevent Password Compromise

    Phishing attacks thrive on their cunning ability to exploit human vulnerabilities. They leverage fear, uncertainty, and doubt to manipulate users within a business into compromising their own security. While a single solution might not exist, one of the most important solutions is the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA).

    The first line of defense against phishing attacks is a “phishing-resistant” multi-factor authentication (MFA) tool. MFA requires users to verify their identity with two or more factors, such as a biometric check alongside their username and password. This crucial extra layer ensures that even if a user’s password is compromised, attackers remain locked out, significantly reducing the risk of successful phishing attempts.

    Security-conscious organizations are adopting phishing-resistant authentication methods to eliminate their vulnerability to phishing attacks. This means either eliminating passwords entirely (passwordless authentication) or using hardware tokens or Passkeys. It’s strongly recommended that an authentication solution follow the industry standard FIDO2 protocol, specifically designed to be impervious to phishing attempts.

    In November, Microsoft announced expanded support for Passkeys in Microsoft Entra ID. In May, Microsoft announced that Passkey support would be expanded to consumer accounts. Using either physical FIDO2 tokens or FIDO2 Passkeys are essential steps to strengthen authentication.

    Ransomware And Malware

    Ransomware attacks hold businesses hostage by encrypting their data, rendering it unusable. This forces companies into a brutal dilemma: pay a hefty ransom to regain access, or face crippling service disruptions and potential data loss. However, the threat has evolved. Increasingly, ransomware groups are shifting tactics, leaking or withholding stolen data, which can inflict significant damage to a company’s reputation and financial standing.

    How To Prevent Ransomware

    For small businesses, investing in security tools like secure endpoint protection, extended detection and response (XDR), enterprise VPNs, and device management is crucial to prevent ransomware and other malware attacks. Leading endpoint protection solutions offer dedicated ransomware features like device “roll-back,” allowing you to quickly restore your system to a pre-attack state in case of an infection.

    Implementing data loss prevention strategies is another crucial step in mitigating ransomware attacks. Secure data backup and recovery tools, ideally stored in the cloud, ensure that even in the event of a severe ransomware incident, data can be swiftly restored. This allows IT teams to recover critical information without succumbing to ransom demands or experiencing prolonged downtime. This proactive approach significantly enhances cyber resilience and minimizes the potential damage caused by ransomware.

    Cloud backup and restore options such as Veeam and AvePoint are great options to protect your data from ransomware.

    Insider Threats

    Insider threats pose a significant risk to organizations, originating from the actions of employees, past employees, contractors, or even business associates. With access to sensitive company data, these individuals can inflict harm through malicious intent, greed, or even simple negligence. According to Verizon, a staggering 25% of data breaches are attributed to insider threats, highlighting the critical need for robust security measures.

    How To Stop Insider Threats

    For small businesses, mitigating insider threats requires cultivating a strong “zero trust” culture within the organization, in combination with the right security tools. This approach emphasizes the principle of least privilege, ensuring users only access the specific accounts and data absolutely necessary for their job functions.

    Here are key strategies to implement:

    • Endpoint Security: Deploying endpoint protection or unified endpoint management tools on company devices safeguards them from unauthorized access or malicious activity. Solutions like Crowdstrike, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, or SentinelOne are all good options.
    • Data loss prevention (DLP): In regulated industries, consider a DLP solution to monitor and control data movement within the organization, ensuring authorized and compliant data transfers. Microsoft Purview is a good option for heavy Microsoft customers. Forcepoint DLP and Digital Guardian are other solid endpoint DLP solutions to improve data protection.
    • Threat Detection and Prevention: Dedicated tools leveraging AI and machine learning can analyze user behavior and identify anomalous activities within your digital environment, potentially uncovering malicious intent before significant damage occurs. Microsoft Sentinel and Hunters are great threat analytics tools. Wazuh provides a good open-source alternative for XDR and SIEM.

    Cybersecurity is a collaborative effort requiring continuous awareness, education, and implementation of best practices. While some businesses may have the internal resources to manage these crucial steps independently, others might benefit from partnering with an external IT provider.

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