The term “cyber risk” can be explained very easily. It is the risk of harmful consequences resulting from a cyber-attack or some other cybersecurity breach. Sadly, this is a risk that all companies must now deal with, even if they are not particularly large or wealthy.
As for why you should care about your cyber risk…well, that should be obvious. You could be robbed of huge amounts of money, or you could have all sorts of sensitive information stolen…not to mention the obvious damage to the reputation of the company in question.
How Big Is The Threat?
Let’s see if we can wrap our heads around the size and scope of this problem. Here are some statistics regarding the total number of recorded cyber-attacks in the United States. As you can see, cyber-attacks have been on the downswing this year, but that’s mainly just because they are descending from an all-time high in 2017.
These numbers say that there were about 1,000 major data breaches in 2020. For comparison, 2017 saw a record 1,632 attacks. Of course, there are going to be many cyber-attacks that go unrecorded, but this should still give us a good sampling. Let’s see if we can find some alternate statistics since these are focused primarily on data breaches.
If these numbers are to be believed, our previous figures might have been a little too optimistic. First of all, we can see that cyber-crime had a global cost of about 10.5 trillion last year. Secondly, Google alone has listed about 2.1 million phishing sites as of Jan. 17, 2021. Each one of those represents a specific phishing attempt and phishing is the most common form of cyberattack. Thus, we can see that the problem is truly massive.
What Makes An Organization More Vulnerable?
In order to understand how you can harden your security situation, you must first understand the things that make you vulnerable. By eliminating these problems, you can definitely get a good start on things. We can’t cover all of them today, so here is a sampling:
1. Poorly Protected Accounts
Every organization has to give accounts to its authorized users, and this access is normally controlled with a password. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to check and see if everyone is using secure passwords. Weak passwords (i.e., short and simple ones) can be cracked with great ease.
2. Software Vulnerabilities
Virtually all software will have certain “bugs.” In some cases, hackers can use these little flaws to do illicit things. These are also sometimes called “exploits.” Once a particular vulnerability has been identified, however, software companies will generally try to fix the problem. This will normally take the form of a “patch” that must be downloaded and applied.
Needless to say, those who don’t quickly get that patch might find themselves being targeted. When a company puts out a patch, they are basically telling the world about a particular exploit that exists in their software. Thus, any hackers that didn’t already know about the bug will be able to easily find out. This is why it is so critically important to keep things updated.
3. Disgruntled Employees
Insider threats can also turn out to be very problematic. There are certain cyber-criminals who are dedicated enough to infiltrate the targeted organization. Of course, companies with a lot of disgruntled employees are more likely to have this problem. Each one of those dissatisfied people represents a potential “way in.”
4. Fire, Flood, Or Other Disaster
Data disasters do not always involve shady hacker types. Sometimes, they don’t involve a particular perpetrator at all. Data generally has to be stored in a physical form, which might be internal hard drives, external hard drives, servers, or physical storage media like disks. All of these things can be destroyed by old-fashioned forces of nature like fire and water. Thus, things like fire safety and hurricane preparedness are also part of what determines your cyber risk.
Understanding Cyber Risk Management
Since there is no way to eliminate this risk, it is much smarter to concentrate on managing that risk effectively. The key is to keep that risk at a minimum. Of course, that is easier said than done. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has created an interesting framework that might be worth your time to read. They have separated the process into five distinct stages:
This step is the ongoing process of identifying new threats. For instance, you might do some research regarding cyber attacks on other companies within your industry. Most of this step involves staying updated on the latest threats and keeping a sharp eye out for them.
This step involves determining what can be done in order to protect yourself from the identified threats. Once you know what those threats are, it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out how they can be stopped. There will always be the threat of the unknown, but you can at least guard against all the known vulnerabilities.
Detection usually involves a robust monitoring system. This kind of thing can be automated to a certain extent, but an expert eye will always be superior to an AI. Detection is crucial to a good cybersecurity plan because it is the last line of defense against a cyber attack. If such an attack can be discovered while in progress, there will likely be a way to shut it down.
Whenever a threat is identified, it is important that an immediate response is made. Waiting for a threat to materialize is pretty much the worst method. This step involves the evaluation of new technologies for protection purposes, the creation of detailed response plans, and anything else that is done to neutralize a threat.
This step is self-explanatory. If all of the above fails, emphasis should be placed on recovery first. This means restoring operations to their previous point of normalcy.
One of the best things that you can do to reduce your cyber risk is to get some qualified help in your corner. Here at PCH Technologies, we have the means and the expertise to provide that help. If you would like to learn more, you can call PCH at (856) 754-7500.