The number of cyber attacks on Australian businesses and institutions has grown astronomically in the past several years, along with the associated costs to individuals and businesses. Not only is it a serious criminal issue, but it also has a chilling effect on both consumers and businesses, and interferes with business growth.
Businesses need to act to protect both themselves and their customers. Fortunately, practically all businesses could enjoy excellent data security if they simply took the time to address the issue. Cybersecurity can be approached in a number of ways, ranging from state-of-the-art security technologies to simple and cost-effective data management techniques.
Cybercrime is a growing epidemic
In 2017, the cost of cybercrime in Australia added up to $4.5 billion. Though numbers aren’t known yet, several major hacks into Facebook, Marriott Hotels, and others in 2018 suggest these figures will increase significantly going forward. Criminals often target businesses and governmental institutions specifically because they possess a wealth of data, and typically have very little defence against cyber attacks.
Already this year, reports have emerged of fraudsters using stolen mobile phone numbers to gain direct access to associated bank accounts. Institutions and businesses often fail to take decisive action, often not knowing what was stolen, or unsure of how to respond. In many cases, criminals will stealthily extract the personal information of customers, while ignoring the businesses in hopes of avoiding detection. Other times, they’ll use phishing or ransomware to extract money directly from the targeted business or individual.
Lack of data security makes business difficult
Several major hacks in 2018 affected literally hundreds of millions of consumers, exposing personal information such as addresses, names, and bank accounts to criminals. The result is that nearly every consumer has either been a victim or personally knows a victim of identity theft. As cybercrime continues to grow, consumers are increasingly unwilling to share personal information with businesses. This, of course, is a major problem for many major industries.
In the 21st century, businesses need customer data. Modern marketing, product development, and even payment and delivery relies on customers being willing to share personal information with businesses. Consumers who aren’t willing to do this will be far more difficult to market products for, and may not be able to effectively use the business’ services, effectively eliminating them as customers. This, in turn, makes it far more difficult for businesses to acquire new customers to drive growth.
Cybercrime harms business finances
Cyber attacks often do, of course, attack or steal funds directly from targeted businesses. Ransomware works by extorting money directly from businesses. A DDoS attack can prevent customers from using online services, preventing sales for the duration of the attack, while identity theft can directly drain a business’ accounts. In some ways, identity theft is even more dangerous to businesses than individuals. Since businesses typically make an enormous number of individual purchases and transfers, fraudulent transactions can go unnoticed for extended periods of time.
In the case of many businesses, the first clear indication of wrongdoing will be when they discover that they unexpectedly lack the funds to pay their bills. At this point, businesses have few options left except to control the damage, since most cybercriminals are never caught. The best way to do that is to use financing tools like invoice financing or supply chain finance to cover immediate financial needs while reporting the incident and taking security measures for the future.
Cyber protection is possible for any business
Larger businesses, or those that are heavily dependent on sensitive data to function, can protect themselves by enlisting the help of dedicated cybersecurity experts and purchasing software. These can help them develop excellent security measures that will deter most thieves and fraudsters. Those who lack the budget to take high tech measures, however, don’t have to resign themselves to the risk. Instead, they can take simple, yet similarly effective measures to protect themselves.
The simplest way to secure data is to detach it from the Internet. Simply store customer and employee data, as well as financial information on a computer that is never, or only rarely, connected to the web. This makes it very difficult for criminals to upload ransomware, keyloggers, or trojans. Similarly, businesses of all sizes should educate employees with access to sensitive information about proper email management, and how to deal with emails that request sensitive information. Phishing is the most common form of cyber attack and remains so successful largely because it relies on human error.
Cyber protection is an important part of protecting your business as a whole. It’s directly about protecting your business’ finances, and the sensitive data of your customers, but it’s also about bolstering consumer confidence in general. As businesses increasingly rely on data to grow and develop, it’s essential that they take cybersecurity seriously, and work to make consumers feel comfortable sharing and using their sensitive data.