As a 21st century business, an online presence is one of the most essential aspects. Most companies these days depend on the internet for most of the processes, from collecting data, online payments, emails to connecting with customers. As a result, the internet has become a crucial backbone of modern businesses, small or big. Internet and modern technology can provide a company with significant advantages, but at the same time, it comes with its risks that many are not aware of Cyber Risks.
These cyber risks can breach business security and ruin the business entirely. Although one of the main targets to have their security breached are Small, medium enterprises (SMEs). This is because SMEs are the most common business that has started to grow in Asia. They make up more than 96% of all Asian companies. Therefore SMEs must understand Cyber risks and adopt a successful cybersecurity strategy in their business plans.
What are Cyber Risks?
Cyber risks can be one of the most threatening factors an SME will ever face in Asia. It can happen over seconds. Imagine this – you have just uploaded a large amount of critical data to the cloud to share with your fellow employees and gone for a coffee break. After returning, all the data – passwords, employee contacts, sensitive company information – is gone, and the business has just become a victim of cyber-crime. Cyber risk is commonly defined as experiencing harm or loss to a firm resulting from breaches or attacks on the business’s information systems in various ways.
The Top 5 Cyber Risks faced by SMEs
#1 Phishing -Social Engineering Attack
According to industry experts such as Microsoft, Phishing is one of the most common forms of cyber risk on the internet and is rising. Furthermore, it is one of the most accessible forms of cyber risk, as it can be as simple as opening an email. Phishing accounts for 90% of all breaches that businesses face, peaking to 65% over the last year and accounting for over USD 12billion in business losses. A phishing attack happens when an attacker disguises themselves as a trusted contact, tricking the user into opening the email, which contains dangerous malware and Ransomware that can penetrate the business data and cloud.
Over the years, phishing attacks have become more convincing in pretending to be reliable, well-known businesses. The primary purpose of Phishing attacks is to steal data, such as passwords, clients, and company secrets. They then use this data to request money from the business’s clients or the business itself. As a result, they are suffering from financial losses and client’s trust.
There are two main types of Phishing. The first type, Email phishing, is when the attacker sends out thousands of emails to random users. Fortunately, only a small number of people fall for this scam. The second type of Phishing is Spear Phishing. The attacker collects more in-depth data on a specific group or individual; it requires special knowledge about an organisation, including its power structure, projects and more. Then, they use this data to craft the email to be more convincing, making the employee open it without overthinking.
Phishing is one of the most complex cyber risks to fight as they use social engineering to target humans in a business rather than the business technology weakness.
#2 Malware -Malicious Attack
Malware is the second most threatening cyber risk that can be as damaging and costly to an SME. It involves various cyber threats such as trojans and viruses. Malware risks can be found in links through emails, downloads, malicious websites or even connecting to infected devices. These attacks can be damaging, especially for SMEs, as they can corrupt company devices which can be expensive to replace or fix. In addition, malware attackers can gain backdoor access to data which is highly harmful and risky for employees and consumers. Companies’ danger increases when employees bring their own personal devices to work with business information and on the company network because personal devices are much more likely to be at risk from malicious downloads.
Data breached from malware attackers can be financial data, employee emails, passwords and even SME network access. Much like Phishing, this can damage a company’s image and ruin the business credibility, especially when the SME is involved in a significant financial loss due to the malware risk.
The most common signs of malware are Slow performance, Frequent pop-up ads and Problems starting/shutting down. Sometimes, the pop-ups warn the user that ‘the computer has been infected and should use the link to help solve the problem’.
#3 Ransomware – Costly Attack
Ransomware is one of the most costly cyber-attacks, affecting thousands of businesses every year. The attacks are on the rise in the Asia-Pacific region, resulting in one of the most common risks faced by SMEs in Asia. Ransomware is a specific type of malware that breaches into and restricts access to company data and demands a certain amount of funds for it to be unlocked. This leaves the business helpless and without control over crucial data that can be highly damaging if shared on the internet.
SME’s are targeted more often by ransomware attackers as they are more likely to pay the ransom. They are targets because most SMEs often fail to back up their data, and without it, they run the risk of losing more money than the ransom demands, making Ransomware a highly costly cyber risk
#4 BYOD- Bring Your Own Device
BYOD is a practice that is very common in many SMEs as it is considered practical and cost-effective. These devices can include computers, electronic pads and even mobiles. Especially with work from home becoming more common during Covid-19, many employees now connect their unsecured personal devices to the business network, and access protected data at home. Many businesses would not think of this as a big deal, but it can be a considerable cyber risk to the SME as the employee and firm may not know that the device is infected and is an easy way to spread or lose data.
BYOD is a cyber risk as employees use the same device for personal use, such as checking their social media, downloading, opening personal emails, and clicking on various links. All these acts seem harmless, but malware and multiple viruses are found all over the internet and spread easier on an unsecured device, especially a mobile. This results in attackers having more accessible access to sensitive company data, almost effortless. In addition, the more personal devices are connecting to the business network, the higher the chance of cyber risk.
#5 Cloud -Internet Storage
SMEs are increasingly shifting their data to internet clouds. Cloud Computing refers to storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of a computer’s hard drive. Mainly SMEs believe this is safer and less time consuming; like everything, it has advantages and risky disadvantages. Although cloud technology is getting more secure, cyber risks still affect companies’ data on the cloud. Many highly experienced attackers use various tricks to penetrate the cloud, resulting in data loss, malware infections, viruses, and much more that can critically damage an SME.
How to avoid these risks and increase your security?
As described, cyber risks are becoming a significant threat to SMEs and can damage the business critically. These risks are why companies should well educate their employees about all the various cyber risks to recognise the different types of cyber risks they could face.
The primary way to avoid Phishing is to have a strong email security gateway that filters emails before reaching a business email account. It allows a user to flag emails that require the email admin to delete them and stop them. Another way is to train employees to recognise such emails and avoid the risk before it occurs. The gateway will help keep the cyber business security more updated and data safe,
Avoid Malware Attacks
Businesses need to install and invest in solid anti-virus technology to defend against Malware attacks. Additionally, all devices used by employees should have firewalls and firmware installed and updated frequently. Companies should also implement web security to stop users from visiting malicious web pages and downloading malicious software. These protections will also help the business avoid Ransomware in the best way.
The other way to fight Ransomware is to frequently backup data. The benefit of implementing data backup and recovery is that the SME can quickly recover their data in a ransomware attack and avoid paying any ransom to the attacker, which can be reported to the police for cyber-crimes.
To avoid cyber risks involved with BYOD, SMEs must develop a strategy to improve their cybersecurity training. This must include appropriate cybersecurity training for all employees and investing in providing each employee with anti-virus packages. Another way to cut out BYOD cyber risks would be to give the employees business devices that restrict their internet surfing and protects them from malicious sites. Although this would cost an SME a significant amount more depending on the size of the business, it is worth it to avoid any future risks.
Protect the Cloud
Cloud cyber risks are decreasing as cloud systems are becoming more aware of cyber hackers and various crimes. The best cloud services continue to build on their security to make it harder for cyber attackers to penetrate. Cloud security is why SMEs are saving data on the cloud; they should invest in well-known cloud services with a high-security guaranty. Another way to keep the cloud data safe is to enforce each employee to use strong passwords to log in to the cloud as this would be harder to crack and save the data safer.
One of the best ways to mitigate the damage caused by cyber risk is to cover yourself with a reliable Cyber Insurance Policy. Red Asia Insurance can help SMEs limit cyber threats and provide valuable advice when a company is affected by cyber-crime. Cyber Insurance can help you cover legal fees and expenses, notify customers about a data breach, restore the personal identities of affected customers, recover compromised data and repair damaged computer systems.