As a security-conscious business owner, you’ve probably invested a lot of time and resources into fortifying your cyber defences. From robust firewalls to cutting-edge encryption protocols, your arsenal of protective measures may be extensive. However, even the savviest business owners are not immune to common cyber security mistakes that can compromise their company’s data.
The frustrating fact is that cybercriminals have all the time in the world to breach your defences. This being the case, it’s crucial to identify and rectify the cyber security mistakes that may have crept unseen into your business practices. Join us as we delve into eight of the most problematic oversights that can undermine even the most vigilant cyber security efforts. With each mistake, we’ll provide insights and actionable steps you can use to prune these vulnerabilities from your business’s digital defences.
1. Failing to Fully Weed Out Weak Passwords
If you consider yourself security-conscious, you’ve probably already implemented password policies that force employees to select strong, unique passwords for each application they access. After all, weak passwords are the most well-known cyber security mistakes out there. However, your employees may still be opting for simplicity over security, using basic combinations of the same core password across multiple accounts. Seemingly complex but easily guessed passwords – such as p@ssw0rd, p@ssw0rd7, p@ssw0rd9 and so on – are a big mistake that can allow unauthorised access to your systems and data.
Even if you address this issue in your most commonly used systems, you’re not out of the woods yet. Employees may fail to go back and create strong passwords for their less commonly used accounts. They may also make marvellously strong passwords for all their work accounts but maintain weak passwords for personal accounts they access on their work devices. Finally, they may maintain strong digital security but create a physical security weakness by writing their passwords in a notebook or on sticky notes.
Solution: Ideally, you want to make it impossible for employees to continue using any default passwords they received when their accounts were made. Encourage your team to create a strong, unique password for every account they access on work devices. Note that to qualify as “strong”, a password should be at least 12 characters long, with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. To make this easy for everyone, consider supplying a reputable password manager for your team. Secure options include 1Password, Bitwarden, and Dashlane.
2. Delaying Software Updates
You’re well aware that you need to approve software updates to keep your system safe… but now’s just not a good time. We’ve all had this thought, but the problem is that as a busy business owner, now is rarely ever going to be a good time. If you keep putting off that update, the ideal time will never come, and you’ll soon find yourself weeks into the future with an unpatched system that’s vulnerable to attack.
Solution: This mistake of kicking the update down the road is common in businesses that don’t work updates into the regular schedule. To solve it, you must make time to regularly update your operating system, applications, and security tools. Set up automatic updates where possible. For those that require manual input, schedule a regular maintenance window in which to get them done. Finally, consider creating incentives for employees to keep on top of updates.
If you’d rather have updates completely taken care of for you, a managed service provider (MSP) is your ideal solution. Since MSPs like Invotec monitor your systems 24/7, their IT experts can manage updates and keep your system perfectly secure in a way that doesn’t interfere with your daily operations.
Worried about the potential for fake software updates? Take a look at our guide to telling the difference between real and fake software updates.
3. Assuming You’re Not a Target
Many small businesses underestimate the threat of cyber attacks, believing they are not a target. Meanwhile, many large corporations make the equally problematic error of assuming they’re too big and too well-protected to be a target. These all-too-common cyber security mistakes can lead to inadequate security measures and a failure to update technological infrastructure and operating systems.
The bleak reality is that hackers don’t care about the size of your business. What they care about are exploitable vulnerabilities. If you have one, they’ll happily go after you.
The root of this problem lies in the way data breaches are presented in the media. News headlines tend to focus on the theft of credit card data and personally identifiable information (PII). As a result, business owners who don’t handle this sort of data often assume they won’t be a desirable target for cyber criminals.
In reality, bad actors are, as we speak, conducting systematic campaigns in every sector of the economy. Their aim is to penetrate as many networks as they can and exfiltrate assets and information they can use to their advantage. Whatever industry you’re in, you certainly have information of value. So it’s vital that you put systems in place to detect and prevent the devastating aftershocks cyber attacks can cause.
Solution: Recognise that no business is too large, too small, or too niche to be targeted. Implement robust security measures and regularly review and update them as threats evolve.
4. Viewing Cyber Security Training as a One-and-Done Deal
Employees are often the weakest link in a company’s cyber defences, which is why most savvy business owners offer cyber security training as part of the onboarding process. The problem is that even well-trained employees make seemingly inexplicable security mistakes. Ask any IT consultant, and they’ll tell you horror stories of trainees accidentally downloading malware or executives maxing out company credit cards buying gift cards for scammers.
While people are always prone to making mistakes, you’re at far greater risk if you view cyber security training as a one-and-done deal. Employees who don’t have regular refresher courses will soon forget essentials like the red flags of a phishing scam. Even if they have eidetic memories and retain everything they learned, their knowledge will be stuck in the past if you don’t use ongoing training to update them on the latest cyber security trends.
Solution: Cyber security training should not be a one-time event but an ongoing process. This includes updating training materials to deal with new threats. However, the most powerful tools at your disposal are regular team exercises and simulations. These should reflect real-world scenarios that employees are likely to encounter in their daily work.
Through exercises and simulations, you can help your team build confidence in responding to relevant threats. After each exercise, provide feedback and discuss what worked well and what could be improved. If you need help with this, you can turn to an MSP like Invotec for comprehensive cyber security training packages tailored to suit your business.
5. Failing to Consider the Physical Aspect of Cyber Security
In point 1, we mentioned the problem of having passwords written down in a notebook or on sticky notes. Yes, this tactic does keep passwords safe from digital attacks. However, it fails to take into account the very real possibility of bad actors breaching your physical security and gaining access to sensitive information.
Criminals can and do break into premises to gain access to hardware and physical copies of data. There have also been instances of security cameras being hacked, and if a password or other sensitive data can clearly be seen, this could lead to a security breach.
Solution: To address this common cyber security mistake, you need comprehensive physical security measures to complement your cyber security efforts and protect sensitive information. This includes secure storage of sensitive information, controlled access to the business premises, secure disposal of sensitive information, and regular security audits.
Avoid storing passwords or other sensitive information in plain sight or in easily accessible locations. Use secure storage solutions (such as lockable cabinets) for physical documents and encrypted drives for digital data. Implement controlled access systems to prevent unauthorised entry to your premises. Depending on the size and nature of your business, this could include key cards, biometric systems, or security personnel.
When disposing of sensitive information, ensure it is done securely. Shred physical documents and use data wiping tools for digital data. Conduct regular security audits to identify potential vulnerabilities in your physical security and take corrective action. Additionally, train employees on the importance of physical security and the role they play in maintaining it. This includes not leaving sensitive information unattended and reporting any suspicious activities.
6. Relying on Basic Security Software
Free or basic security software may seem cost-effective, but it often fails to provide comprehensive protection against the myriad of cyber threats that exist today. Basic security software typically offers limited features and may not be equipped to handle sophisticated attacks or emerging threats. Furthermore, these solutions may not receive regular updates or patches, leaving your system vulnerable to emerging threats and sophisticated methods.
Moreover, businesses often underestimate the potential costs and far-reaching consequences of cybersecurity failure. These can include financial loss, reputational damage, legal ramifications (including hefty fines), and loss of customer trust. Therefore, relying solely on basic security software can be a risky strategy that may lead to significant losses in the long run.
Solution: Invest in advanced security software that offers comprehensive protection against a range of threats. Advanced security software comes with robust features designed to guard against both common and emerging threats. These features often include real-time threat detection, automatic updates, and integrated firewalls. Additionally, advanced security software should provide support for incident response, helping you quickly identify and mitigate threats.
If you want to round out your advanced protection with 24/7 monitoring and human support anytime you need it, contact Invotec to discuss a bespoke cyber security package tailored to suit your needs and budget.
7. Having a Vague Disaster Recovery Plan
Data loss can have terrifying consequences for business owners. However, many business owners overlook the importance of regular and secure data backups. The absence of a disaster recovery plan leaves them even more vulnerable to cyber attacks and data loss events.
When such incidents occur, it’s vital that you have a backup plan in place, enabling swift restoration of business operations and minimising data loss and downtime. Unfortunately, many organisations fall short in this arena. The most common causative issues are a lack of dedicated staff for developing these protocols or insufficient testing of the protocols developed. In the worst-case scenario, some businesses lack any plan at all, leading to potentially disastrous repercussions.
Solution: A regular data backup schedule is your first foundational step. Ensure all backups are stored securely, preferably off-site or in the cloud. It’s also crucial to develop a disaster recovery plan that outlines your response and recovery process in the event of a cyber attack or data loss event. Regularly review and update your plan to address evolving threats and ensure its effectiveness.
8. Not Implementing Identity Protection Measures
As we become increasingly reliant on digital systems, the growing sophistication of cybercriminals is an ever-increasing threat. As a business owner, you have no choice but to collect and store data from your customers, employees, and other stakeholders in order to maintain your operations. No matter how innocuous you may think it is, this personally identifiable information (PII) is an attractive target for identity thieves.
Identity security is your key to protecting your company’s human and machine identities, whether on-premises or hybrid, regular or privileged. This specialised form of protection is designed to detect and circumvent identity-driven breaches, preventing bad actors from gaining PII, even if they’re bypassed your endpoint security measures.
A successful identity theft attack can have severe consequences for businesses, including financial loss and the destruction of customer trust. Moreover, regulatory bodies are imposing stricter data protection and privacy regulations, holding businesses accountable for any mishandling of customer data.
Solution: To mitigate identity theft risks, many businesses are opting for a Zero Trust security model, which operates on the principles of ‘never trust, always verify’, and ‘assume breach’. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) should be non-negotiable at this stage as it adds a vital extra layer of security. Encryption technologies are also vital in the secure handling of personal data.
Even the savviest business owners regularly fall prey to serious cyber security mistakes. From underestimating the threat of cyber attacks to neglecting physical security, these oversights can have severe consequences. However, by recognising these pitfalls and implementing robust security measures, you can significantly enhance your cyber security posture. If you wish to discuss your business’s cyber security further or need assistance in ensuring it is airtight, don’t hesitate to contact the Invotec team. Our team of experts is ready to help you spot vulnerabilities and safeguard your business against potential threats. Remember, in the realm of cyber security, prevention is always better than cure.