Cyber attacks are a growing concern for businesses both large and small. Gone are the days of a bored teenager in their parents’ basement looking to cause harm for bragging rights. Attacks today are usually financially motivated with attackers being very organized and acting as business. A report by Sophos indicates that Ransomware gangs made over $400M in 2020. Cyber attacks are malicious attempts to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems, networks, or devices. They can take various forms, including viruses, malware, phishing attacks, ransomware, denial of service attacks or more persistent threats. These attacks are becoming increasingly common, and the impact they can have on businesses is significant. This article will discuss the prevalence of cyber attacks, their impact on businesses, how to prepare for them, and what to do if it happens to you.
Prevalence of Cyber Attacks
Cyber attacks have become increasingly common, and no organization is immune. According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime is projected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. The report also predicts that cybercrime will result in the theft of 33 billion records in 2023. These numbers show that cyber attacks are a significant threat, and businesses must take steps to protect themselves.
The Impact of Cyber Attacks on Businesses
Cyber attacks can have a severe impact on businesses. They can disrupt operations, damage reputation, and cause financial losses. A cyber attack can compromise sensitive data, such as customer information, financial data, and intellectual property. This can lead to legal and regulatory penalties, loss of revenue, and damage to a company's reputation.
A cyber attack that disrupts operations can cause downtime and productivity losses. This can lead to missed deadlines, delayed projects, and reduced profitability. A ransomware attack, for example, can make websites or other online services inaccessible to customers and disable internal systems of the organization. This may cause frustration for clients and may result in loss of business. It will certainly cause financial loss due to recovery efforts. According to a report by Sophos, the average cost to recover from a cyber attack in 2023 is $1.85M USD.
Reports show that after a company experiences a cyber attack, it is likely that an attacker will attempt to breach that organization again within months of the first attack. This is because IT resources will be exhausted from recovery efforts or the organization may fail to patch the vulnerability that allowed the first attack to be successful.
How to Prepare for Cyber Attacks
Preparing for a cyber attack is crucial for businesses of all sizes. Here are some steps that businesses can take to prepare for cyber attacks:
- Conduct a Risk Assessment: A Risk Assessment involves identifying the risks that a business faces, evaluating the likelihood and impact of those risks, and developing a plan to mitigate them. A risk assessment can help businesses identify their critical assets, such as customer data and intellectual property, and develop strategies to protect those assets. Protection of these assets should prioritize immutable (encrypted and read-only) backups with a periodic backup to an off-site location.
- Implement Security Measures: Businesses should implement security measures to protect their systems and data. These measures include firewalls, antivirus or Endpoint Detection and Response software, intrusion detection systems, and encryption. These measures should be regularly updated and tested to ensure they are effective.
- Develop Incident Response Plans: An Incident Response Plan is a plan of action that outlines the steps a business should take in the event of a cyber attack. The plan should identify the individuals responsible for responding to the attack, the steps they should take to contain, mitigate and recover from the attack, and the communication channels that should be used to inform stakeholders.
- Train Employees: Employees are often the most targeted attack vector for cyber criminals. Therefore, businesses should provide regular training to their employees to ensure they are aware of the risks and know how to identify and respond to cyber threats.
- Obtain Cyber Insurance: Once the organization can prove to an insurer that their Cyber Security Program is effective, investing in Cyber Insurance will provide benefits in the event of an attack. The insurer will assist with the cost of recovery and will provide a Breach Coach that will help the organization during recovery and forensic analysis. Ensure the Insurer and Breach Coach are added to the Incident Response Plan as one of the first points of contact during a verified attack.
What To Do in the Event of an Attack
- Assess the Impact: The first step in responding to an attack is to assess the impact. Using the tools implemented for Intrusion Detection and logs from other security related solutions, ascertain the scope of affected systems and credentials. Follow your developed Incident Response Plan according to the severity of the incident.
- Contain the Attack: Following the playbooks developed for the Incident Response Plan, isolate the affected systems and disable affected credentials. Review logs for newly created credentials or password resets and disable those accounts as well. If the scope of the breach is large enough, networks and internet connectivity may need to be disabled and recovery efforts may require alternative methods to access the environment.
- Notify Relevant Parties: Follow the steps in your Incident Response Plan to notify relevant parties, including: your insurance provider, customers, vendors, and regulatory agencies. This helps to minimize the damage caused by the attack and demonstrates a commitment to transparency and accountability. The affected parties should be provided with clear and concise information about the breach, including what data was compromised and what steps are being taken to mitigate the effects of the attack.
- Recovery: Follow the playbooks from your Incident Response Plan to restore the systems that were isolated. This may include building the system from scratch, ensuring it is hardened and patched, and reinstalling relevant software. You may recover data from your backups however, a full system restore is not advised as the vulnerability that resulted in the breach may be present in the backup.
- Lessons Learned: After recovery efforts are underway or successful, it is essential to conduct a comprehensive post-incident review. This involves analyzing the incident to identify the root cause, determine what steps can be taken to prevent similar attacks in the future, and evaluate the effectiveness of the Incident Response Plan. This information is used to strengthen the organization's security posture and minimize the risk and impact of future cyber attacks.
A cyber attack can have serious financial and reputational risks for any business. It is critical for a business to have a clear plan of action in place and a supporting Cyber Security Program to prevent and mitigate a cyber attack. Regular reviews and improvements to the Cyber Security Program will help the organization be more resilient and reduce the impact of a breach.