It's a line you've heard over and over again, "never before has network security been so important." Unfortunately, it's true, and my guess... you already knew that.
If you're reading this article, you're trying to stay ahead of the game and protect your network. Awareness of today's types of network threats can be the difference between keeping your business thriving or closing its doors for good.
SOS' service to its customers is to identify potential network weaknesses and implement solutions that avoid network downtime. Our hope for this article is to pass some of that information on to you so that you may be better protected, as well.
Network Security Threats of 2019
We kick-off our list with the most well-known type of computer threat. Yes, in 2018 malware is still a huge threat. Malware is the tech name for "malicious software." It is the general term to describe viruses, Trojan horses, spyware and worms.
Most people are aware to stay away from suspicious websites or clicking on their links, but hackers have become more sophisticated and now utilize an arsenal of "phishing" techniques to lure you into taking their bait.
Dictionary.com defines phishing as the "fraudulent practice of trying to obtain financial or other confidential information from internet users, typically by sending an email that looks as if it is from a legitimate organization, usually a financial institution, but contain a link to a fake website, replicating the real one."
Phishing has become such a common danger, the IRS even has to make statements informing Americans that they will only contact them via phone or postal mail.
How do I avoid this?
An effective way to avoid phishing is to have employees undergo phishing tests. This is where a security service sends employees an email in an attempt to bait them into clicking what would be a malicious link (if it were real). Most programs are designed to alert the admin user if the link has been clicked, and by which employee.
A common follow-up practice is to have employees who fail the test enroll in an online or in-person training course that must be completed. READ: Phishing Tips: A Simple Guide to Avoid Malicious Emails
Other strategies that will cut down on the volume of phishing traffic that gets through is by adjusting security/web filtering settings for your network and your email client. This is helpful to combat phishing, as well as Trojan horses.
This old baddie is still being used today to infiltrate networks. Much like the fall of Troy in ancient Greece, Trojan malware disguises itself on a website as something desirable (like a free cruise to Bora Bora!). Unfortunately, clicking on that link downloads a virus on to your computer instead of whisking you away to a tropical island.
To avoid this, make sure your antivirus software is updated and inform employees of the dangers of clicking on non-work-related links and websites. Your IT manager can also adjust your network settings to block employees from gaining access to web pages that have specific keywords that he or she flags as being linked to potentially malicious content.
Although ransomware is technically malware, but its prominence has increased to the point of being worthy of its own distinction. This form of malware has made news nearly every month. In Atlanta, our own city hall was attacked by ransomware just this year! Ransomware is what it sounds like: malware designed to encrypt a company's data for a ransom.
Ransomware can be downloaded on accident by any of the above methods (with phishing being the most popular). Hackers using ransomware will wait months or years to activate the software. This makes it nearly impossible to find and remove within your network. Once attacked, your only option is to pay the ransom or risk the destruction or release of valuable data.
Originally, PCs were the main targets of ransomware. That is still the case today, however, Macs, Linux and smartphones are also being targeted more and more as they become more popular. Ransomware is not going away - in 2017 alone, ransomware attacks grew by 2,500%!
Big Data breaches in the cloud are becoming increasingly larger targets for hackers. What is more concerning is that smaller companies are often preferred because their network security is not as challenging to penetrate as a larger firm, and are more likely to pay after an attack.
The only way for companies to combat this emerging threat is to invest in cloud security from a reputable provider. Businesses can shop and purchase cloud back-up and support a la carte or they can seek the services of a managed services provider (MSP).
The Internet of Things (IoT) has created an explosion of innovative growth. The result is the creation of luxury devices like Smart Home technology (Alexa, Google and Siri). Nearly anything in a home that requires power can now be controlled via an internet connection.
Unfortunately, these devices have famously poor security built into them. In fact, these devices were the entry point of a coordinated attack in 2016 which wreaked havoc on millions of devices and their users. As these products become more affordable and commonplace, expect to see the number of security breaches to climb.
Make sure to be careful when choosing to use apps to connect to your home devices, especially if you also use financial apps like Apple Pay, Venmo or Pay Pal. These all act as virtual hallways for hackers to steal your information if you are not protected.
The World in Which We Live
Network security threats have been prevalent since just after the formation of the internet. Cyber security solutions are continuously being updated to ensure that users are protected from the realities of what the internet holds.
At SOS, we are committed to the latest in cyber security technology. As a result, our customers are able to sleep easy with the peace-of-mind in knowing that they are protected with our Managed IT Services.
There are many security companies, however, that are building walls and reacting to yesterday's threats instead of being proactive. There is new technology emerging that focuses on building network security like a body's immune system. This A.I. technology may be the wave of the future and the future of network security.
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Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Content Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.