Cyber Attacks: Seven Measures You Can Take to Protect Your Company
Cyber attacks affect companies regardless of size or industry. From SMEs to international corporations employing tens of thousands of staff members, no single company is immune from this threat. Even authorities are affected, as illustrated by a few new cases and developments:
• The biggest-ever distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack was registered on February 28 of this year. A group of hackers brought several tens of thousands of computers under its control, crippling GitHub, a leading software developer platform, in the process.
• In 2016, RUAG, the Swiss Government’s armaments company, announced that it had been spied on by means of a so-called advanced persistent threat (APT). The perpetrators gained access to an increasing number of devices and authorization levels using Turla malware.
• In the fall of 2017, Swisscom suffered a data breach. Unknown individuals stole access privileges from a sales partner and thus gained access to the personal data of 800,000 customers, including the data of high-ranking managers within the company.
• At the 2018 Annual Media Conference held at the end of March, FINMA, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, warned of cyber risks. In the finance industry, they now represent “the biggest operational threat”, according to Director Mark Branson. Day after day, around 100 attacks on e-banking solutions are detected by Swiss banks.
According to a joint study conducted by the Swiss Insurance Association, the Swiss Association for Quality and Management Systems, ICTswitzerland, Information Security Society Switzerland, the Federal IT Steering Unit and the Swiss Government’s Expert Commission, more than one in three Swiss SMEs had already fallen victim to a cyber attack: In the representative survey of 300 companies by the research company GFS, 36% of companies revealed that they had already encountered “malware such as viruses or Trojans”. Six percent complained that they had already suffered data losses, and a further four percent of those surveyed had already been extorted by hackers. Three percent of companies had already dealt with DDoS attacks, where their servers had been deliberately overloaded.
Depending on the type of attack, it becomes extremely expensive for the companies affected. If, for example, an online shop is down for a whole day due to DDoS attacks, sales are not generated and the customers migrate to the competition. In extreme cases, the theft of trade secrets can even put the company’s very existence at risk. So, how do you arm yourself against malicious cyber attacks?
1. No Security Without a Firewall
Be sure to protect your servers and internal networks with a firewall. A firewall filters Internet traffic based on defined rules. High-performance firewalls detect suspicious patterns, which refer to an already known malware, for example, in incoming and outgoing data packages. Modern data centers have a continuously updated firewall which can be adapted to the requirements in question. It must not be operated by itself. Configuration, updating and monitoring of a firewall can be outsourced to a specialized provider as a managed service.
2. Be Wary of Mobile Devices
A cleverly disguised email (spam or phishing), an infected website, or a carelessly installed program: there are many ways in which malware (or Trojans) can infect your employees’ laptops, tablets, or smartphones. The device in question therefore becomes the gateway for hackers. Antivirus programs only detect malware which is already known. Anyone who goes about their work with criminal intent finds it extremely easy to program new attacks, which in some cases remain undiscovered for many years. You should therefore only permit particularly sensitive operations from stationary, especially maintained, and protected devices, but under no circumstances from your employees’ personal smartphones.
3. Make DDoS Attacks Miss the Mark
DDoS attacks are like fast food for cyber criminals: quick and dirty. Any layman can commission an attack such as this for less than USD 100. A hacker network then mobilizes a large number of computers which access the victim’s server at the same time. The server breaks down under the load of the traffic and can no longer be reached. Ensure that your web hosting provider or your data center has a so-called DDoS guard. This disconnects the malicious traffic at the backbone and diverts it into an intermediate cache so that only the desired data reaches your server. You can therefore divert most “conventional” DDoS attacks in this way.
4. Use Two-Factor Authentication
For a long time, a strict password policy was considered to be the most important measure for increased cyber security. With predefined rules (special characters, upper-case letters, etc.) and minimum lengths, people tried to get users to choose secure passwords. In many cases, this was counter-productive, because it led to users writing their password down and saving it on their device. Two-factor authentication, such as a push message on a smartphone with a new code generated for each authentication, is more effective.
5. Train Your Employees
In most cases, cyber attacks succeed because, somewhere along the line, the human factor fails. Hold an annual cyber security seminar with your employees to raise awareness of the topic among them. Be as descriptive as possible in this regard, by demonstrating, for example, how easy it is for a hacker to bring a mobile device under their control with a Trojan.
6. Maintain an Overview of the Entire Value Creation Chain
As business processes are increasingly being outsourced to the cloud, companies are indeed becoming more efficient, but they are also becoming more vulnerable. Often, sharing data over the Internet with employees, suppliers or customers is simply unavoidable. Here, the IT security of the supply chain as a whole should be checked. Your partners should, if possible, apply the same security standards as you do in your own company.
7. Go Offline Every Now and Again
In highly sensitive fields, such as intelligence services and nuclear power plants, it is common to operate certain IT systems offline. So have a good, hard think about whether all your servers really have to be connected to the Internet around the clock.
Subscribe to our newsletter and regularly receive the latest information about products, services and other green.ch AG and Green Datacenter AG activities.