As a 21st century business, an online presence is one of the most important aspects. Most businesses these days depend on the internet for most of the processes, from collecting data, online payments, emails to connecting with customers. The internet has become a  crucial backbone of modern businesses, small or big. Internet and modern technology can provide a business with great advantages but at the same time, it comes with its own risks that many are not aware of Cyber Risks.

These cyber risks can breach business security and ruin the business completely. Although one of the main targets to have their security breached are Small medium enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are the most common business that has started to grow in Asia. They make up more than 96% of all Asian businesses.  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 key 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 business resulting from breaches or attacks on information systems of the business, in various ways.

The Top 5 Cyber Risks  faced by SMEs

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#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 on the rise. It is one of the easiest 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 to open the email which contains dangerous malware and ransomware that can penetrate into the business data and cloud.

Over the years phishing attacks have become more convincing in pretending to be reliable, well-known businesses. The main 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. Resulting in 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, where the attacker collects more in-depth data on a certain group or individual, it requires special knowledge about an organisation, including its power structure, projects and more. They use this data to craft the email to be more convincing, making the employee open it without thinking too much.

Phishing is one of the hardest cyber risks to fight as they use social engineering to target humans in a business, rather than targeting 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. Malware attackers can gain backdoor access to data which is extremely harmful and risky for employees and consumers. The danger is increased 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 major financial loss due to the malware risk.

The most common signs that occur when a computer has been affected by malware are slow performance, frequently pop-up ads, problems starting/shutting down and sometimes when 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 any control over crucial data that can be extremely damaging if shared on the internet.

SME’s are targeted more often by ransomware attackers as they are more likely to pay the ransom. This is 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 big 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 are using the same device for personal use, such as check their social media, downloading, opening personal emails and clicking on various links. All these acts seem harmless, but malware and various viruses are found all over the internet and spread easier on an unsecure device, especially a mobile. This results in attackers having easier access to sensitive company data almost effortless. The more personal devices 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 its advantages and risky disadvantages. Although cloud technology is getting more secure, there are still cyber risks that affect companies data on the cloud. Many highly experienced attackers use various tricks to penetrate the cloud, which results in loss of data, malware infections, viruses and much more that can damage an SME critically.

How to avoid these risks and increase your security?

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As described, cyber risks are becoming a big threat to SMEs and can damage the business critically.  This is why every business small or big should be well educated about all the various cyber risks, every employee should be trained to recognise the different types of cyber risks they could face.

The main way to avoid Phishing is to have a strong email security gateway that filters emails before they reach a business email account. It allows a user to flag emails which requires the email admin to delete such emails and stop them in the future. Another way is to train employees to recognise such emails and avoid the risk before it occurs. This will help keep the business cyber security more updated and data safe,

Businesses need to install and invest in strong anti-virus technology to defend against Malware attacks. Additionally, all devices used by employees should have firewalls and firmware installed and updated frequently. Web Security should also be implemented 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 in the case of a ransomware attack, the SME can quickly recover their data and avoid paying any ransom to the attacker, which can then be reported 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 provide employees with business devices that restrict their personal internet surfing and protects them from malicious sites. Although this would cost an SME a large amount more depending on the size of the business,  it is worth it to avoid any future risks.

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. This is why when 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 keep 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 to limit cyber risks and provide valuable advice when a company is affected by cyber-crime. Cyber Insurance can help you to 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.

To learn more about cyber insurance and protect your company from cyber risks, contact Red Asia Insurance.

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