Protection is possible with the right solutions, expert help and education
This May, in just a couple of days, the ordinary Internet user became aware of two disturbing events. Hackers blocked the activities of one the largest fuel pipeline companies in the US. Thousands of Bulgarian Facebook users yet again fell for the message from a friend that asked "Is this you?," and clicked on the link that followed it.
These events are of different scale and character, but together they show in a concentrated way something that we have known for long and still somewhat refuse to accept and understand. The Internet has many advantages but it is far from a safe space. Our civilization depends on it, but the personal and professional information in it are not fully protected. A malicious attempt is enough to ruin someone's personal life and a company's finances and activities, regardless of its size.
In 2019, the survey "The Future of Cybercrime & Security" by technological analysis leader Juniper Research showed that by 2024 global business will lose over $5 trillion due to cybercrime. And this is data before the Covid-19 pandemic sent millions of employees working from home and set companies to the immense challenge to not only provide devices for distant work and to connect them to their networks, but also to protect them from hacker attacks.
Contemporary business and economy depend on accumulation and analysis of data to make strategic and operative decisions about investments, product development, customer service. A cyber attack puts all of this to risk – and much more. Breach in the systems and devices of a company compromises not only its data, but also the information of its employees, clients and business partners.
Malicious agents have a rich arsenal. Phishing is a carefully targeted attack that manipulates users' behaviour so that they willingly open the "gates" of their devices and information to the hacker. Emails imitating ones from established institutions bring the victim to a respectably looking but fake official page that asks for their username and password. The "Is this you?" message on Facebook. The user's credulity gives the hacker access to sensitive information or the victim's email which they can use, for example, to send to all contacts the infamous email: "Hi, I am at city Х and was robbed, please, send me asp Y euros."
Malware is malicious software that uses the system's vulnerabilities to enter the organisation's network. It often breaks in when an employee clicks on a compromised link or downloads an infected programme. The results might be catastrophic: you might be blocked from your data unless you pay a ransom (ransomware) or viruses and spyware that collects sensitive information might be installed on affected devices.
Company servers and networks are often the target of denial-of-service (DoS) attacks that make them unable to execute legitimate requests for services. In a man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack, the hacker secretly intercepts the communication chain between the company and the client and manipulates it for their own nefarious means, to divert money to their own accounts, for example.
Of course, companies and users are not completely defenceless. Sensible information, devices and networks can be protected both in work and home environment.
The company should take the necessary steps to encrypt all the data that exits it. This guarantees that even if the system is breached, the hacker will be unable to use the stolen information. It would be useless to them, and the company will not lose valuable data.
Company data should be stored in a backup copy at another location. The backup copy makes the company more secure in cases when its systems are down (be it because of a hacker's attack, be it because of a technical problem) or fall victim to a ransomware attack.
Many companies and users think that the latest generation of devices and software protection are enough to keep them safe from malicious breaches. In reality, technology and software solutions are powerless when the people who use them are not aware of the dangers of the Internet, do not know how to avoid being hacked and how to react when a breach happens. Companies that invest in educating their employees – particularly employees in home office – are much more protected.
Companies which have their own IT department make another mistake. They believe that the IT department can perform cyber protection functions as well. This approach, however, is inherently wrong – not every IT professional is a cybersecurity professional. Companies that truly insist on reliable protection should create a separate cybersecurity unit in their organisation, or should delegate the task to an established and reliable independent contractor. Specialised companies for cybersecurity services are the best solution for users of all types and sizes – from individuals to small and mid-size businesses to large companies. Such firms are not only fluent in the current dangers and how to prevent them, but also offer a variety of services and subscriptions tailored to different types of clients and their needs.
"Subscriptions limit the risk of device hacking, supporting the correct configuration of the systems it uses," says Kaloyan Vasilev, manager of the Bulgarian company CyberSecurity (www.киберсигурност.бг). Subscription plans for companies and individuals are among the complex services offered by the company. The portfolio of CyberSecurity services includes as well cybersecurity solutions, virtual resources and trainings, complex analysis of corporate security.
There are working solutions even for the moments when hackers have breached the company systems. Special insurance is one of those.
"Cyber-attacks of all kinds have become more aggressive, more diverse, and better calculated," says Alexander Gospodinov, head of the Cyber Insurance project of Lev Ins, a Bulgarian insurance company (www.lev-ins.com). "They are a big problem for all organizations and as a result, many companies are inclined to opt for cyber insurances as a tool for protection or minimizing the damage caused by a cyber incident. As the demand for cyber insurances increased, Lev Ins is offering to its clients proactive insurance solutions based on prevention. The in-house Security Operation Center guarantees 24/7 monitoring and an immediate response together with the insurance policy."
Not a single user or company is able to predict all the problems and dangers that might arise in the future. But with properly selected technology, software solutions and expert help the mission for achieving an optimal cybersecurity is absolutely possible.