Technology | By Sonus Benefits,

Just How Important Is Cyber Security?

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are increasingly reliant on the internet for daily operations. But this doesn’t come without risk. Heavy reliance on computers, phones, and internet makes protecting these resources increasingly important.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, data breaches increased 40 percent in 2016, with a total of 1,093 reported breaches. This trend continued in 2017, with over 1,120 cases reported by October.

Your company could be an attractive and potentially lucrative target for cyber criminals. Learning about cyber attacks and how to prevent them can help you protect your company from security breaches.

Could your company be compromised?

Cyberattacks include many types of attempted or successful breaches of computer security. Threats come in different forms, including phishing, viruses, Trojans, keylogging, spyware and spam. Once hackers have gained access to your computer system, they can accomplish any of several malicious goals: stealing information or financial assets, corrupting data, and causing operational disruption or shutdown.

Both third parties and insiders can use a variety of techniques to carry out cyberattacks. Techniques range from highly sophisticated efforts to electronically circumvent network security or overwhelm websites, to more traditional intelligence gathering and social engineering aimed at gaining network access.

Cyberattacks can result directly from deliberate actions of hackers, but they can also be unintentionally facilitated by employees by something as simple as someone accidentally clicking on a malicious link. According to historical claim data analyzed by Willis Towers Watson, 90 percent of all cyber claims stemmed from some type of employee error or behavior. The high-profile Equifax, Snapchat and Chipotle data breaches were all caused by employee error or behavior.

A breach in cyber security can lead to unauthorized usage through tactics such as the following:

  • Installing spyware that allows the hacker to track Internet activity and steal information and passwords
  • Deceiving recipients of phishing emails into disclosing personal information
  • Tricking recipients of spam email into giving hackers access to the computer system
  • Installing viruses that allow hackers to steal, corrupt or delete information or even crash the entire system
  • Hijacking the company website and rerouting visitors to a fraudulent look-alike site and subsequently stealing personal information from clients or consumers

Cyberattacks may also be carried out in a manner that does not require gaining unauthorized access, such as denial-of-service (DoS) attacks on websites, in which the site is overloaded by the attacker and legitimate users are denied access.

The Vulnerable Become the Victims

The majority of cyber criminals are indiscriminate when choosing their victims. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asserts that cyber criminals will target vulnerable computer systems regardless of whether the systems belong to a Fortune 500 company, a small business or a home user.

Cyber criminals look for weak spots and attack, no matter how large or small the organization. Small businesses, for instance, are becoming a more attractive target as many larger companies have tightened their cyber security. According to the industry experts, the cost of the average cyberattack on a small business is increasing exponentially— and shows no signs of slowing down.

Nearly 60 percent of small businesses victimized by a cyberattack close permanently within six months of the attack. Many of these businesses put off making necessary improvements to their cyber security protocols until it is too late because they fear costs will be prohibitive.

Simple Steps to Stay Secure

With cyberattacks posing such a prominent threat to your business, it is essential to create a plan to deal with this problem. Implementing and adhering to basic preventive and safety procedures will help protect your company from cyber threats.

Following are suggestions from a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) roundtable and the DHS’s Stop.Think.Connect. program for easily implemented security procedures to help ward off cyber criminals. These suggestions include guidelines for the company as well as possible rules and procedures that can be shared with employees.

Security Tips for Your Company

Cyber security should be a company-wide effort. Consider implementing the following suggestions at your organization:

  • Install, use and regularly update anti-virus and anti-spyware software on all computers
  • Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as they become available
  • Change the manufacturer’s default passwords on all software
  • Use a firewall for your internet connection
  • Regularly make backup copies of important business data
  • Control who can physically access your computers and other network components
  • Secure any Wi-Fi networks
  • Require individual user accounts for each employee
  • Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority for software installation
  • Monitor, log and analyze all attempted and successful attacks on systems and networks
  • Establish a mobile device policy and keep them updated with the most current software and antivirus programs

Security Tips for Employees

  • Use strong passwords (a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters), change them regularly and never share them with anyone. Never repeat a password across accounts
  • Protect private information by not disclosing it unless necessary, and always verify the source if asked to input sensitive data for a website or email
  • Don’t open suspicious links and emails. An indication that the site is safe is if the URL begins with https://
  • Scan all external devices, such as USB flash drives, for viruses and malicious software (malware) before using

Securing Your Company’s Mobile Devices

Gone are the days when contact names and phone numbers were the most sensitive pieces of information on an employee’s phone. Now a smartphone or tablet can be used to gain access to anything from emails to stored passwords to proprietary company data. Depending on how your organization uses such devices, unauthorized access to the information on a smartphone or tablet could be just as damaging as a data breach involving a more traditional computer system.

The need for proper mobile device security is no different from the need for a well-protected computer network. Untrusted app stores will continue to be a major source of mobile malware which drives traffic to these stores. This type of “malvertising” continues to grow quickly on mobile platforms.

It’s important to stay informed about cyber security and continue to discuss internet safety with employees.

Don’t Let it Happen to Your Company

A data breach could cripple your small business, costing you thousands or even millions of dollars in lost revenue, sales, damages and reputation. But according to the DHS, 96% of cyber security breaches could have been avoided with simple or intermediate controls.

Strengthening passwords, installing anti-virus software and not opening suspicious emails and links are the first steps toward cyber security. In addition to the listed tips, the FCC provides a tool for small businesses that can create and save a custom cyber security plan for your company, choosing from a menu of expert advice to address your specific business needs and concerns.

It’s tempting to think a cyberattack won’t happen to you. But it’s far better to protect yourself, your employees, and your business so it can’t.


Is your broker thinking outside the benefits box? Are you confident your policies and processes are doing what they need to ensure that your company—and your employees— are healthy and productive? At Sonus Benefits, this is what we do for St. Louis employers every single day.

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Content for this article was provided by Zywave, Inc. and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances or be used as legal advice.