To say there are a lot of devices connected to the internet would be an understatement. Over the past few years, the number of internet-connected devices has grown exponentially. According to a report published by Gartner, in fact, there are now over 14.2 billion computers, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches and other devices connected to the internet. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, it’s paving the way for new cyber threats.
What Is the IoT?
What is the IoT exactly? It’s a catch-all term used to describe a network of connected devices, each of which contains a unique identifier (UID). In the past, internet access was largely limited to computers. While computers — both desktops and laptops — are still used to access the internet, there are now countless other types of devices that can connect to the internet. The IoT encompasses all internet-connected devices.
Cyber Threats Associated With the IoT
The IoT poses several cyber threats, one of which is the potential for a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack. Not to be confused with a standard DoS attack, a DDoS attack requires hundreds or even thousands of hijacked devices. During a DDoS attack, a hacker will take control of many internet-connected devices, and he or she will use those devices to spam requests to a victim’s Internet Protocol (IP) address. As the requests keep pouring in, the victim’s internet service may suffer as a result.
In addition to DDoS attacks, the IoT poses a risk of social engineering. Social engineering, of course, is a form of phishing in which a hacker attempts to manipulate a victim into divulging sensitive information, such as login passwords. With the IoT, a hacker can hijack and use a device to send messages to a victim in hopes of stealing the victim’s sensitive information.
How to Protect Your Business From IoT-Related Cyber Threats
As a business owner, you should implement the appropriate safeguards to protect your computers and network from IoT-related cyber threats. Regarding DDoS attacks, a firewall is an invaluable tool. With a firewall up and running, the spam requests will be filtered so that they don’t harm the performance of your business’s internet.
Unfortunately, it’s a little more difficult to protect against social engineering. With that said, antivirus software, as well as proper training, can minimize the risk of social engineering attacks. If a hacker uses malware to perform a social engineering attack, the antivirus software should catch it.
Upon hearing the terms Intrusion Detection System (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), you may assume that they both refer to the same type of intrusion-blocking cybersecurity solution. While they serve similar purposes, though, they aren’t necessarily the same. IDSs and IPSs work in different ways to lock down your business’s information technology (IT) infrastructure and, therefore, protect it against cyber threats. So, what’s the difference between an IDS and IPS exactly?
What Is an IDS?
An IDS is a cybersecurity tool — either software or hardware based — that monitors traffic on a network for signs of suspicious activity. When deployed, it will constantly scan the traffic on your business’s network while looking for signs of a cyber attack. The IDS will monitor network traffic in search of potential cyber threats.
IDSs work by cross-referencing network traffic to a database of known cyber threats. If the IDS identifies a cyber threat on your business’s network, it will log the event so that you can further investigate or otherwise take the appropriate steps to mitigate it.
What Is an IPS
An IPS, on the other hand, is a cybersecurity tool that performs the same function of monitoring network traffic as an IDS but with the ability to block suspicious or malicious traffic as well. They cross-reference network traffic to a database of known cyber threats — just like their IDS counterparts. The difference, however, is that IPSs are capable of blocking suspicious or malicious activity, whereas IDSs are only capable of identifying and logging such activity.
Like firewalls, IPSs serve as a barrier between your business’s internal network and the internet. Whether you are downloading an email attachment or browsing a website, your business’s internal network is being exposed to external traffic from the internet. With an IPS in place, though, you can rest assured knowing that your business’s network is safe from external threats.
There are four primary types of IPSs, including the following:
Network behavior analysis
IDSs and IPSs are two common cybersecurity tools that can protect your business from cyber threats. They both work by checking network traffic against a database of known cyber threats. With that said, only IPSs can block cyber threats. IDSs are designed exclusively to identify cyber threats, whereas IPSs are designed to both identify and block cyber threats. Aside from this subtle nuance, they are pretty much the same.
Are you running Windows 10 on one of your computers? The latest version of Microsoft’s long-running and universally popular operating system, Windows 10 is preferred by countless business owners and consumers. It’s fast, user friendly and secure. With that said, Microsoft recently released a patch for a security vulnerability in Windows 10. If you haven’t downloaded and installed it, your computer could be susceptible to cyber threats.
About the Windows 10 Vulnerability
On Jan. 14, Microsoft rolled out an update to patch a vulnerability in its Windows 10 operating system. The vulnerability essentially leaves computers susceptible to encryption spoofing. When you visit a secure website, your web browser will typically check and verify the encryption certificate. This newly discovered vulnerability allows hackers to spoof encryption certificates such as this.
Microsoft was alerted to the vulnerability by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA discovered the vulnerability, after which it contacted Microsoft to inform the Redmond-based company about the vulnerability. Microsoft has since responded by releasing an update to patch the vulnerability.
Affected Operating Systems
In addition to Windows 10, the vulnerability also affects Server 2016 and Server 2019. If you run any of these operating systems, you should install the latest update as soon as possible to protect against cyber threats.
When speaking about the recent vulnerability, government officials explained that anti-virus software isn’t sufficient. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the vulnerability may “thwart” anti-virus software.
“The vulnerability in ECC certificate validation affects Windows 10, Server 2016, and Server 2019. It bypasses the trust store, allowing unwanted or malicious software to masquerade as authentically signed by a trusted or trustworthy organization, which may deceive users or thwart malware detection methods like anti-virus,” wrote the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
How to Update Windows 10
To protect your computer from the ECC certificate-related vulnerability, you should update it to the latest version of its respective operating. Assuming your computer runs Windows 10, you can download and install new updates by accessing Start > Update & Security > Windows Update > Check for Updates.
Keep in mind, it may take several minutes to download the update, and once downloaded, you’ll have to restart your computer for the update to take effect. Once the update has finished installing, your computer will no longer be susceptible to the encryption vulnerability.
Encryption is a highly useful tool in protecting against cyber threats. Unfortunately, though, it’s not completely foolproof. As revealed in Microsoft’s latest vulnerability, encryption certificates can be spoofed.
Do you know the warning signs of a phishing email? Research shows nine in 10 data breaches are attributed to phishing. While hackers use a variety of channels to “phish” for data, email is the most common. By familiarizing yourself with the signs of a phishing email, you can protect your small business’s data from theft.
#1) Not Personalized
Legitimate emails are typically personalized with the recipient’s name, such as “Dear John” or “Dear Susan.” If another business sends you an email, it will probably personalize it with your real name. Phishing emails, on the other hand, typically aren’t personalized. Rather than featuring the recipient’s name, they have a generic opening like “To whom it may concern” or “Dear customer.”
#2) Low-Quality Images
Phishing emails often have low-quality and grainy images. The person, people or organizations behind the phishing attacks don’t care about image quality; they only care about deceiving the victim into providing them with their business’s data. Therefore, phishing emails tend to have low-quality and grainy images.
#3) Suspicious ‘From’ Address
A suspicious “from” address is another telltale sign of a phishing email. All emails have a “from” address — it’s the domain from which the email was sent. Unless the “from” address is a legitimate business’s official website, it’s probably a phishing attempt.
It’s important to note that the “from” address can be spoofed with minimal effort. Therefore, you shouldn’t rely strictly on the “from” address to determine whether an email is legitimate.
#4) Suspicious Links
Most phishing emails contain at least one link to a suspicious, untrustworthy website. Before clicking any links in an email, hover your mouse over them to view the destination. If the links points to a suspicious-looking website, don’t click it. Otherwise, you’ll place yourself at risk for a phishing attack.
#5) File Attachments
You’ll also fine file attachments in phishing emails. The files, of course, are usually malware that, when downloaded, infect the victim’s computer. The malware is then used to steal the victim’s data. Always use caution when both clicking links and downloading file attachments in emails. Unbeknownst to many business owners, file attachments and links are often used for phishing.
#6) Sense of Urgency
Finally, phishing emails often have a sense of urgency. For example, a phishing email may tell the victim that he or she has 24 hours to “verify” their account. Upon discovering this message, the victim may abruptly click the link and enter their username and password.
As we wrap up another year, there’s no better time than now to reevaluate your business’s cybersecurity strategy. Over the past decade, cyber attacks have become increasingly common — and it’s not just large companies that are being targeted. Statistics show over half of all cyber attacks involve small businesses. To safeguard your business from cyber attacks in 2020, consider the five following tips.
#1) Use a Firewall
A firewall is arguably one of the most important tools to protect against cyber attacks. Not to be confused with anti-virus software, it’s designed to monitor, as well as filter, incoming and outgoing traffic. If the firewall detects suspicious activity, it will block the traffic so that it doesn’t harm your business’s information technology (IT) infrastructure.
#2) Update, Update, Update
In addition to using a firewall, updating all your business’s software apps to the latest version will lower the risk of a cyber attack. Hackers often use vulnerabilities in outdated software to infiltrate networks and devices. If your computer or device is running an outdated version of its operating system, for example, a hacker could infiltrate your computer or device by exploiting a vulnerability in the operating system.
#3) Use Two-Factor Authentication
When given the option, use two-factor authentication for your business’s password-protected accounts. What is two-factor authentication? Basically, it’s an extra layer of security that’s applied to a password-protected account. When enabled, you’ll have to enter your password while also providing an additional method of authentication, such as a PIN.
#4) Create Backups
It’s always a good idea to create regular backups. While backing up your business’s data won’t necessarily protect it from cyber attacks, it will mitigate the damage if an attack occurs. If you have a backup of your business’s data, you can restore it in the event of a cyber attack. Whether it’s ransomware or crypto-mining malware, creating regular backups will allow you to get your business’s IT infrastructure up and running with minimal downtime.
#5) Train Employees
Assuming your business has employees, you should train them on how to spot potential cyber threats as well as how to respond to cyber threats. Far too many business owners neglect to train their employees on the fundamentals of cybersecurity. As a result, they unknowingly expose their business’s IT infrastructure to common threats like malware and phishing scams. By training your business’s employees on how to spot and respond to cyber threats, you can rest assured knowing that your business’s IT infrastructure is better protected.