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The 5 Biggest Vulnerabilities That Scammers Look to Exploit in Small Businesses And Organisations

September 26 2016

Although the internet has brought about many positive changes, it’s unfortunately also made it much easier for scammers to potentially target anyone.

From phishing emails and CEO fraud to malware and viruses – there are many threats to small businesses that scammers look to exploit.

Below are 5 of the biggest.

1. Naive/poorly trained staff

When most businesses think about how to make themselves safe against security threats, they’re most focused on IT systems. Installing anti-virus software and making sure all software and plug-ins is always a good idea but one of the biggest threats to your business is actually from your own staff.

CEO fraud is a particularly malicious type of scam that relies on naïve and/or untrained staff in order to be successful. CEO fraud has cost businesses millions and is a very real threat, even to small businesses. The way it usually works is by a scammer posing as a high up figure within the business, often the CEO (hence the name) and making contact via email or phone to request a large amount of money to be transferred. They will usually create a huge sense of urgency and make the recipient feel as though they have no choice but to make the transfer… and quickly!

It isn’t just CEO fraud that’s a risk when you have poorly trained staff though. There is also the risk of them clicking on malicious links in emails, not properly updating software and not updating their passwords regularly. This is why it’s vital that you properly train and educate your staff if you want your organisation to be safe from security threats.

2. Outdated browser plug-ins

Modern browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox are all being continually updated in order to mitigate the risk of viruses, malware and other forms of malicious software infecting users’ computers. Using older versions of these browsers though, can put your business at significant risk.

The updates and patches that are released and usually auto-updated on newer browsers are not present on older versions. This makes it much easier for scammers to exploit vulnerabilities in the browsers and potentially infect your systems with malicious software.

Whenever possible, you should keep all software in your business updated or patched – this includes browsers, operating systems and anti-virus software. Scammers are constantly trying to adapt and find new vulnerabilities to exploit in unpatched software. Having the latest versions installed is the best way to protect against this.

3. Insecure data

One of the most valuable assets to many businesses is the data they hold.

One of the best ways to make data secure is by encrypting it and using strong passwords or security controls in order to access it, as well as using multi-authentication steps. Another incredibly important part of making your data secure is to use strong passwords and to make them unique. There are arguments for and against changing them regularly as the more important factor is to have a strong, hard-to-crack password.

Some businesses still believe that storing data locally, rather than in the cloud, makes it safer. This isn’t necessarily true, since storing data on physical devices such as external hard drives and USB drives means it can easily be lost or stolen and fall into the wrong hands.

4. Lack of protocols

One of the biggest vulnerabilities that scammers look to exploit is a lack of security protocols or processes. For example, if a large sum of money needs to be transferred, then there should be a system in place with multiple security checks to go through. Those who perpetrate CEO fraud are relying on there being little or no protocols in place in such a scenario and if this is the case in your business, then it’s always going to be at risk of such as scam.

To properly protect your business, you should have appropriate protocols in place for any scenario that could pose a security threat. This means employees should know how to deal with suspect emails, what to do if asked to transfer sums of money, when and when not to give out security credentials to others and what steps to take in order to keep data secure when accessing and sharing it.

5. Service provider failure

With so many services now being cloud-based, it’s extremely important that you select and work with the right service providers. This is particularly important when you’re storing your data in the cloud. A good cloud-based service should not only have excellent security measures but also have a clear disaster-recovery protocol in place.

When a company as large as Sony can have their data hacked, it shows just how big of a risk scammers pose. Although it’s fairly unlikely your business would be targeted precisely in the same way as that, you still need to ensure you take some basic steps to keep your data secure and choose the right service providers for your business.

 

If you’d like to check how secure your business is then download our  FREE 15 Point Security Checklist here to help you determine how secure your IT systems are and how security-conscious your people are!

 

Image source: Freerange Stock

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