How to protect your business against Australia’s top cyber threats

Cyber attacks on Australian Small to Medium Business owners (SMBs) are on the rise. In a recent report by Cisco, over half of all Australian SMBs admit having been the victim of a cyber attack.

As an SMB owner, and without a dedicated IT team, finding time to ensure your technology is up to date and your system is secure can be a struggle. However, following the introduction of the Notifiable Data Breach Scheme, in which all SMBs need to declare any cyber breaches by law, keeping up to date is vital. Businesses need to tackle cyber security as they would physical security – something that’s integral for business success.

The Cisco Small and Mighty Report recently explored the current cyber security threats facing SMBs. Below are three of the top cyber threats facing Australian SMBs and what you can do, as a business, to stay protected against them.

  1. Malware – malicious software

Malware, short for “malicious software”, is a general term used to cover a number of potential threats that can cause damage. Malware can be anything from computer viruses to spyware.  With today’s global community of hackers creating sophisticated attacks, finding sophisticated tools to block threats is key.

One of the most common warning signs of a malware infection is a slower-than-usual computer. As Malware takes up a lot of storage on your machine, the programmes and usual day-to-day operations are affected which results in a slightly slower machine.

Patching software is one of the simplest and most effective ways to protect your business against Malware. Patching refers to updating, improving and pushing out any potential bugs that could get into a system.

For small businesses, patching comes in the form of accepting software updates when they appear on your screen. For medium-sized businesses, accepting updates is key and products such as Cisco® Advanced Malware Protection (AMP), and Cisco Umbrella can help strengthen resistance to cyber threats, reducing alerts and dramatically decreases  malware by up to 90 %.

Running antivirus software also helps to remove malware and decreases the possibility of your computer crashing following an attack.

  1. Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware aka ‘malicious software’ mentioned above. Ransomware converts all your business data into code and locks your screen so no activity can be carried out, known as encryption. The cyber criminal will then send a ransom message asking you to provide a payment in return for your data and access to your screen. Often the criminals pretend to be the police in these messages – using the premise of illegal activities as a ‘fear’ tactic to get business owners to pay the ransom fee.

It’s important to note that even if you pay the fee there is no guarantee your screen and data will be restored. It is therefore essential to back up business critical data on a regular basis.

In most cases, Ransomware gets into your system via spam emails in which a request is made for someone to click on an external link to view something. Usually, these emails come from unknown senders. Clicking on the link provides the cybercriminal with access to your system.

Using email scanning software can help determine an email’s authenticity. The type of email hosting you have will determine which specific software to use. If you’re unsure, speak to a vendor such as Cisco what the best Defense solution is for your business.

  1. DDOS attack

A distributed-denial-of-service, or DDoS attack, involves a cybercriminal bombarding a business with simultaneous data requests, causing the system to crash under the pressure of the traffic.

Cybercriminals will use DDoS attacks during busy business periods to target businesses, in cases where the usual warning signs can be excused or accounted for.

As an example, the January sales are one of the busiest periods for retailer owners around the country with website traffic typically higher due to the volume of people looking to purchase bargains. As a result, websites can be significantly slower, or in some cases crash.

As a DDoS attack uses a high volume of traffic to mask an attack, and an attack at this time could easily be overlooked and attributed to lots of shoppers being on the site.

Switching to security solutions delivered from the Cloud not only helps protect against a DDoS attack but it’s also more effective for your business. Cisco Umbrella is a cloud security platform that provides the first line of defense against threats on the Internet. It helps block threats by understanding Internet activity patterns, which identifies risks – so if there’s a high volume of traffic, or suspicious activity, you will be alerted and it will be stopped before the unthinkable happens.

With the number of attacks rising year-on-year, Australian business owners across all industries need to remain vigilant. A combination of good cyber hygiene practice and ensuring you have the right level of security protection is crucial to improving your cyber resilience and minimising the impact of threat.

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