Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, speaking on 60 Minutes, said, “the greatest risk to the economy is cyber risk.” Like you might be doing right now, Forbes author and tech CEO Kevin Lynch marvels that it’s not inflation, not another 2008-style financial crisis, or even a pandemic that has the chairman most worried. It’s a sobering sentiment—one that begs us to consider the importance of cyber security in an organization or business. Powell illustrated the risk saying, “there are scenarios in which a large financial institution would lose the ability to track the payments that it’s making—where you would have a part of the financial system come to a halt.”
Does that make your stomach turn? It’s not just one man’s hyper-vigilance. The importance of cybersecurity in business is a modern reality. At the recent World Economic Forum, 650 WEF leaders surveyed cited cybersecurity as a “clear and present danger” along with infectious disease, income equality and extreme weather events as the greatest threats to the global economy. It’s a global problem with local implications.
Of course, there are big-picture thinkers asking the right questions about how we need to think about cyber crimes and how we address them as a planet, as regions, and as nations. We need some of that thinking on a local and individual level as well. There are attacks reported every two seconds of every day. The number of data breaches reported publicly in 2021, before the year’s fourth quarter had started, exceeded the total for all of 2020. If you’ve been battling phishing, spam, or other cyberattacks and thinking, “are cyber attacks up in 2021?” you are not alone, and it’s not your imagination.
What is Cybersecurity and Why is Cybersecurity Important?
The US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) defines cybersecurity as “the art of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information.” We’ve noted here, and countless other places, the volume of attacks are up—way up. What’s also alarming is that the refinement and systematization of targeting are up. It’s organized crime—and the organization and sophistication have increased.
Cyberattacks at a glance – a few of the most common sources:
- Malware. Spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms
- Phishing.Tricky, “socially engineered” links in emails or web links designed to look like something you should click on.
- Man-in-the-Middle attacks. Attacker inserts themselves in between a visitor and the network.
- Denial of Service attacks. Attackers flood systems, networks or servers to cause a disruption or to pave the way for some other attack to slip in undetected.
It’s easy to identify the scam and have laugh when a “Nigerian prince” sends you an unsolicited email notice that he needs an advance. Still, cybercrime has become far more sophisticated in recent years. Your employees need to be vigilant. While hacks like JBS and SolarWinds grabbed headlines as the most prominent recent cyber attacks, thousands upon thousands of others got no press coverage. The industries that have suffered the greatest from malware incidents in 2020 and 2021 include professional services firms, manufacturing, public administration, mining and utilities, retail, transportation, education, and finance.
JBS, as mentioned, suffered an attack in 2021. The world’s biggest meat processor temporarily closed plants in three countries and paid an $11 million ransom to stem the threat to supply chains and food price inflation. The effects of crime in the digital space have significant implications in the broader economy. In the realm of your business or organization, some of the impacts of cyber security lapses can include:
- Rising insurance premiums, liability
- Downtime caused by infections
- Loss of trust with customers
- Data loss
With data loss and some of the other effects experienced in a cyber attack, the consequences often reach far beyond the confines of your organization, reaching into customer security, customer relationships, employee security, and more. As you might already realize, there are a number of reasons why cyber security is more important than ever. You can do things to protect yourself, your organization, your partners, and your data. Keep in mind that it’s rare that a one-size-fits-all solution exists. You’ll likely need a combination of tools and strategies to be cybersecure, but the following are some of the best:
- Antivirus software. This is basic but important, especially with the popularity of work-from-home and hybrid work arrangements.
- Cybersecurity awareness. So many of the attack methods rely on our trusting nature as humans. Employees need to be trained on what to look for.
- Home network security. Risk rises as our data passes between networks of various configurations and levels of security. With the pandemic an increasing number of people are working from home. Consequently, measures should be taken to ensure their home networks are secure.
- Disaster preparation and recovery. Drill your IT team and employees. Test your vulnerabilities and response to such attacks with tabletop or other simulations.
- Update policies and protocols. How stringent are your identity authentication processes? Review them with a professional and train your employees accordingly.
Why is cybersecurity critical in the 21st century? In 2020, business email accounted for $1.8 billion in losses, according to complaints registered with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (Insurance Information Institute). The impact of cyber security on the smooth and uninterrupted operations of your business and organization is difficult to put into perspective, but that figure is just email alone! Whether it’s software or hardware upgrades, changes in protocols and processes, adding specialized training, or all of the above, it’s essential to stay on top of cybersecurity and manage it so that you can keep in front of the hackers and attackers that might be just one click away.