Preparing for Your Cyber Attack
Your business is likely to become the target of a cyber attack if the recent past is any guide to the near future. In 2020, at least 2,354 local governments, health-care facilities and schools in the United States were affected by ransomware attacks, and since 2016, an average of 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred each day in the United States, according to a U.S. Government report. New York State’s Department of Financial Services estimates that such attacks increased by 300 percent last year.
An attack typically occurs when perpetrators find a way into a network system often by taking advantage of a human vulnerability like getting an employee to click on a link that enables malware to enter a corporate network. Once inside the system, the intruder gains access to administrator privileges, and then goes on to hijack or cause other disruptions to a network’s data and infrastructure. The costs to a business, not to mention the associated damage done to reputation and client relationships can be fatal. The National Security Institute Reports that the average ransom demanded in an attack rose from $5,000 to $200,000 between 2018 and 2020.
While not entirely eliminating the chances that a cyber attack can occur there are precautions that you can take today that will significantly decrease the odds of you becoming a victim tomorrow.
- Initiate Employee Training: Engage an online or in-person training program that will make everyone in your company aware of the risks associated with cyber attacks and teach the precautions that they should take. This should include regular training with the embedding of “phishing” emails and follow up.
- Conduct a Network Audit and Implement Patches: Have your computer network evaluated for vulnerabilities and weaknesses and then have patches applied to the system. This will strengthen your company’s computer network against cyber attacks. In order to remain up to date audits should be conducted on a quarterly or even a monthly basis.
- Use Multi-Factor Authentication and Strong Passwords: Ensure that all of your employees use strong passwords (i.e. not “123456”) and introduce two-factor authentication. The protection afforded by a slight delay in signing on is more than compensated for by the enhanced security afforded.
- Implement a Backup System: Make sure that your entire system is backed up, online and off. This will enable you to restore your network infrastructure and data in the event that cyber attackers hold your system hostage.
- Create and Test a Robust Incident Response Plan: Do not wait until your system is attacked to figure out what to do. Create a plan and test it to make sure that you are able to respond efficiently and effectively in the event of an attack or system failure. And make sure you test that system. The best incident response plan is worthless if it just collects dust on a book shelf.
- Obtain Cyber Insurance: While insurance does not prevent an attack from occurring it can certainly diminish the financial impact that a cyber attack can cause.
Creating a global protection and response plan can be overwhelming and is often beyond the scope of a company’s in-house capabilities. Although some tasks may be handled by various vendors, especially technical audits, it is advisable to have the overall process coordinated by a single team. The ideal solution is often to engage an attorney to coordinate and to handle many of the tasks. A law firm can ensure that you are legally protected and also that the work being done under its auspices is covered by the attorney-client privilege in case a lawsuit is filed at some point down the road.
The threat to cyber security is constantly evolving and authorities are constantly playing defense to criminals highly motivated by financial rewards. For that reason the process of protection must be ongoing. What worked yesterday may well be outdated by tomorrow. While the threat cannot be eliminated entirely the risk and accompanying financial and legal liability can be dramatically reduced by implementing a dynamic cyber security plan.