Equifax, one of the 3 largest credit agencies in the U.S., last week revealed a security breach which compromised over 140 million individuals’ personal information. While this is not the largest security breach ever in the US, because of the data that was taken, it has the potential to be the most severe, evidenced by the resignation of the company's CEO and the "retiring" of both their CIO and CSO (chief security officer).
But what do we, as business owners, take from this? It is just another breach of a very high profile enterprise level company. Previously it was Yahoo, Sony or Target, now this. Should we sit tight in the knowledge that no one is targeting our firm? We don't have information that is worth seeking out, so no one is targeting us, right?
There are 2 parts to the answer: Yes, it is highly unlikely that our firms are being singled out and targeted by a hacker. There are most definitely more high profile targets that provide a cybercriminal with more kudus and long term profitability. However, now to the 2nd part of the answer.
Over the last 20 years we have gone through 3 phases of IT in the business world:
Phase 1 was when IT and the internet could provide advantages to our businesses, and we looked to leverage IT where feasible. Phase 2 was when we realized that we were forced to leverage IT and the internet in order to be competitive in the market space, and rushed to implement new systems ASAP. Phase 3 is now, when we see that IT and the internet – now in the form of cloud, are intrinsic to our business. We cannot function correctly or at all without it. IT and the cloud have become the lifeline of our businesses.
Companies of all sizes, from small to the enterprise now have the same reliance on IT. Cybercriminals know this.
We also store data, maybe private or confidential data belonging to our clients that is extremely valuable to these cybercriminals. The actions we take to protect this data could impact how our company is perceived by our clients and in our market. Again, Cybercriminals know this.
This is why all businesses, especially small to mid sized firms who may not have the resources to properly secure their systems, are vulnerable targets.
Now as I said, a Cybercriminal is probably not going to take the time to sit outside your virtual IT office and bang on the door until they get in, but they will take a lazier and simpler approach. Purchase a toolkit (yes ... I said purchase, they no longer need to build it themselves) and leverage systems we use every day such as email and web browsing, to deliver malware and ransomware into our network. What these programs can do once they infect a company is scary.
Ransomware is a different kind of animal than we have seen before. It started in 2014 and has become much more rampant since. When it is activated in your network it will encrypt all your files and application data, locally and if possible in the cloud. Yes cloud services can be at risk too. You either restore all your data or pay the ransom to decrypt. Unfortunately, many people are not prepared to restore data as their backups are not sufficient OR their backups are also encrypted by the malware.
So not only is the SMB a target, it can take less time for the cybercriminal to breach and the manner in which we are more likely to be compromised is directly monetized!! We are a very attractive target!
I recently moved to a home a few block from the ocean, on Long Island. When we moved, we knew we were moving to the water, we knew we had to take that into account. It didn’t matter that we were not buying the biggest house or the house closest to the beach or the bay. We were living by the water so we have to invest in certain things pertinent to that to protect our home.
In the same respect, all business owners need to be taking the right steps to protect our companies and clients. Hackers today are like natural disasters, rather than focus on a specific victim, they just attack. And those in their wake who are unprotected and unprepared, unfortunately become victims.