The most common cyber security threats & how to protect your business

Cyber threats and cyberattacks can have significant consequences for businesses including financial loss, decreased productivity, damaged reputation, and loss of contracts so it’s imperative that your business is protected against some of the most common cyber threats.

What are cyber security threats?

Cyber threats are any attempt (malicious or accidental) to corrupt, damage, or exploit your organisation’s data, software or resources.

5 common cyber security threats

1. Phishing

Phishing is when a hacker attempts to get the user to click on a malicious link or to extract sensitive data from individuals that can be used in a malicious way e.g. passwords, banking details, personal information.

As of January 2022, the NCSC has received over 10m reported instances of phishing scams – many of which are delivered via email including words such as “Urgent”, “Payment” and “Important” in the subject line.

Part of what makes phishing attacks so difficult for businesses to combat is that they use social engineering to target humans within a business, rather than targeting technological weaknesses.

2. Malware

Malware is any piece of software (including trojans and viruses) designed to either damage devices or steal important data from your business. Hackers continuously update their malware to attempt to bypass cyber security measures with 777 unprecedented attacks handled by the NCSC in 2021 alone.

Malware is usually accessed by clicking an infected link, clicking a pop-up ad, or downloading a file from an unknown source or sender.

Malware can be one of the most costly cyber security threats to combat retrospectively since they often require expensive repairs or replacements.

3. Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts and blocks a business’ computer systems until a payment is made to the hackers – however, even after paying the ransom fee, many organisations never regain access to their systems.

Similarly to other forms of malware, ransomware is usually released into a system through a malicious link or file.

No business is too small to be targeted by ransomware. In fact, in 2020 , 51% of businesses were targeted by ransomware with 2 in 5 SMEs impacted.

4. Data breaches

Data breaches include any event where data is stolen or compromised from the business. This may occur via the use of malware or phishing but may also occur through a hacker simply forcing their way into your systems through a weakness they have identified.

Data breaches can give criminals access to not only company data, but also customer data. A breach of customer data can violate GDPR and data protection regulations resulting is significant fines for the business.

5. Compromised passwords

Inefficient passwords can be easily compromised, granting cybercriminals access to numerous business systems and pools of sensitive data. According to the NCSC, less than half of users have strong separate passwords for their accounts, which makes it easy for hackers to gain entry to personal and financial information.

Where do cyber security threats come from?

Outsider Threats – many cyber security threats come from hackers and criminals targeting a business for financial gain or to damage the reputation of the business in question. They analyse a business for both technical vulnerabilities as well as opportunities to manipulate humans within a business. Cyber threats can also come from terrorist organisations within other countries aiming for mass disruption and an impact on the overall economy.

Employees (insider threats) – while many don’t intentionally aim to threaten the business, employees can be one of the biggest cyber security threats organisation face. With a lack of cyber security knowledge or poor security practices, they often expose businesses to threats without knowing it.

How to protect your business from cyber security threats at the most basic level

Cyber Essentials

Since many threats stem from improper cyber security policies and procedures, a good way to ensure you have everything up to the proper standard is to complete your Cyber Essentials Certification – and renew it as needed.

Our Cyber Essentials self-assessment option gives you protection against a wide variety of the most common cyber attacks. This is important to improve resistance to script kiddie attacks against opportunistic attackers

Cyber Essentials PLUS is a popular physical audit which is a must have minimum requirement for bidding on government contracts or similar, which is the highest level of certification offered under the Cyber Essentials scheme.

Penetration testing

Penetration testing (aka pen testing or ethical hacking) is a process where in you authorise a cyber security professional to attempt to hack your organisation’s IT network infrastructure and applications by any means necessary. The penetration testing process will expose any weaknesses in your technology, systems and processes that could be exploited by a criminal.

Penetration testing enables your business to identify any vulnerabilities and address them before a hacker does. It is recommended that organisations undergo a thorough penetration test at least once every 3-6 months – or sooner if the IT infrastructure is changed.

Ready to improve cyber security within your business?

Byte Security provide both implementation and auditing services for gold IASME governance and Cyber Security certifications, pen testing services, plus bespoke cyber security reporting application allows our clients to visualise vulnerabilities as they are discovered in real-time.

Get in touch to find out more or book a free consultation.