Tips to Mitigating the Risk of a Cyber Attack


We depend on technology, so we need technology that’s trustworthy and that works. However, as cyber crime continues to rise, our dependence on technology makes us more vulnerable to attacks than ever before. These breaches aren’t just costly – they can be deadly for a company. Attacks create huge losses and the risk of a business’s reputation. Just ask Target, which paid $10 million to settle its data security crisis only last year. And it’s not just large corporations at risk – cyber criminals target small businesses, too. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that one in five small businesses is hacked annually.

So here are a few tips to help you start protecting your company right now:

Educate your staff.

Employees should understand what information is private and how to keep it that way. Warning them of the dangers of phishing emails is key, as ransomware was named a “rapidly growing threat in 2016” in a report by McAfee Labs. Studies show that 93 percent of phishing emails contain ransomware that is extremely detrimental to companies, according to researchers at user-awareness firm PhishMe. The emails often appear to come from a business’s CEO – all the hacker has to do is change one letter or leave off a number in his email address. Protect your company and its data by teaching employees to identify phishing emails.

Keep business life separate from personal life.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies increase employee flexibility, but they can pose a significant risk to your company. In fact, 24 percent of data breaches are caused by misuse of work devices, according to Heimdal Security. Make sure employees know of this danger and help prevent it by creating a written policy that outlines your company’s BYOD policy.

Adopt a protocol to change PINs and passwords.

Cracking a password is an easy way for attackers to access sensitive information. So it’s smart to create a strong password and change it once or twice per year – and have your employees do the same. New studies show that changing a strong password less frequently is actually more secure in the long run, Wired recently reported.

Maintain security software

Clicking a bad link from a website or email can download malware to your computer, granting cyber criminals access to your hard drive and possibly to others in your network. So, keep your security software current to make sure your information – and your clients’ – stays safe. Hackers succeed 99 percent of the time when protective software isn’t up to date, Heimdal Security reports.

Have a response plan and practice it.

As Winston Churchill said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” This sentiment is especially applicable to businesses and cyber security. Since, unfortunately, there is no foolproof method to protect your business against cyber crimes, predetermining your action plan will make all the difference in a crisis. Without protocols in place at the time of attack, your company will be unprepared to take actionable steps, such as informing employees of a breach and implementing required employee action to limit the damage. Walk yourself through a breach and answer questions like, “Who will deal with the technology aftermath?” and “Who will inform clients?” Write these answers down, share them with employees and test the plan.

Get coverage.

In the unfortunate event of a data breach, cyber liability insurance is an added protection. It covers risks such as defacement of intellectual property, extortion and theft of data. It also covers crisis management, including tech support and public relations, in the immediate aftermath. With the average cost of an attack reaching $15.4 million, according to Ponemon, this safeguard is one of the most important tactics for protecting a company’s financial health.

When it comes to cyber security, companies serious about safeguarding their data should consider both cyber insurance and proper prevention planning. Together, these are your best allies to defend against cyber criminals and keep your business safe.