In May of 2021, the Colonial Pipeline on the East Coast was hacked, resulting in a gas shutoff that caused panic buying and shortages across the eastern half of the United States. While the government has its own cybersecurity protections in place for government-owned properties, 85% of critical American infrastructure is privatized, and there’s little regulation as to how those companies must protect themselves.
Major data breaches are all too common in the news these days, affecting industries across the board from the hotel industry to major software providers. They’re also expensive — estimates for the total cost of a data breach range in the millions of dollars, and the total cost of cybercrime worldwide is estimated to exceed the entire global drug trade and the cost of all natural disasters. If you’re not investing in cybersecurity to protect your business, your data, and your customers, now is the time to start.
Why Cybersecurity is So Important
No matter what line of business you’re in, cybersecurity is more important than ever. The digital revolution has arrived, and with it has come the digitization of virtually every aspect of modern business, from payroll to inventory to the management of client data. Even seemingly “old-fashioned” industries like farming and mining have found themselves vulnerable to cyber attacks in the last few years.
With the increased digitization of business, we’ve also seen a stratospheric rise in the use of third-party services and software-as-a-service companies. While these services can be extremely useful, since they enable you to add features and efficiencies to your business without employing tech experts, they also add points of vulnerability to your entire system.
Finally, cybersecurity is all the more vital as more people use the technological tools in your organization. Most cyber attacks and data breaches aren’t caused by malicious software breaking through firewalls, they’re caused by mistakes or ignorance on the part of a single user who’s duped into giving up access to your server or internal data. User error is a constant concern in the cyber world, and increasing numbers of users also increase the risk of an error.
How to Protect Your Company
Your first and best precaution to preventing a data breach is to reduce the amount of data available to potential attackers — in short, if a given piece of information doesn’t need to be stored in the cloud or on network-connected machines, it shouldn’t be. On-site backups and storage are relatively cheap and straightforward to set up, so if there’s a significant quantity of data your organization needs to store, doing so locally is often the best idea.
You should also prioritize IT education and training. Every time your company integrates a new tool for project management, data storage, payment processing, internal communication, or whatever function you need, everyone should be fully versed in how to securely and properly use that software. One of the most important pieces of IT education is the ability to recognize and avoid phishing attacks. Major email clients block tens of millions of phishing attacks every day, but enough of them still make their way through to pose a threat if your team doesn’t know how to spot the warning signs.
Phishing is just one form of social engineering attack — a class of cyber attack that attempts to trick or coerce people into granting access or giving out sensitive data. Browser notifications, verification texts, robocalls, and mobile apps can all be leveraged to take advantage of unsuspecting users.
Finally, you should have established policies and procedures in place when it comes to digital security. Implement a password manager so that employees are required to use unique, secure passwords. Conduct regular audits of your IT policies. Establish clear requirements for acceptable use, software installation, and other rules.
Many companies have put technology on the back burner, especially if they don’t see themselves as operating in a “high-tech” field. But as we’ve learned from the Colonial Pipeline attack, no industry or organization is immune to malicious targeting. To protect your company and customers, you need to invest in robust cybersecurity measures as soon as possible.