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The number of cyber attacks launched each year is growing rapidly. Data shows that in 2019, up to 60% of small businesses went bankrupt and had to shut down within six months after falling victim to cyberattacks.
Everything suggests these numbers will only grow. The digitized world presents many opportunities but also risks. Companies are often targeted not only by malicious individuals but even by politically engaged groups.
They need to protect themselves, but what is at stake? When it comes to cyberattacks, most executives worry about the loss of profits and essential data. Not everyone thinks about what a cyberattack could mean for their brand’s reputation.
This leads to a perception of cybersecurity as a simple tool designed only to protect data. For many, it is just an item to cross off the to-do list rather than an investment.
How hackers can destroy a brand’s reputation
In the age of digitization and social media, word travels fast. This means that your business can lose its reputation in a matter of days or even hours. This is especially true for startups and young companies. While the biggest fish in the market usually recovers, a startup’s reputation is priceless and often cannot be rebuilt.
Customers trust the recommendations and opinions of their friends and the people they interact with, so reputation and trust are key, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. If a company falls victim to a cyberattack, its customers are likely to simply turn away from it – even if they were not directly affected by the breach.
Current customers are informed and opinionated. They pay attention to their privacy and data protection. Many clients and investors can and will check that their services are secure, especially if they involve financial transactions. One breach can lead to a mass of social media posts and articles, cementing the brand as untrustworthy and unsafe. This often leads to bankruptcy for a small company without a strong customer base.
What are the most common threats leading to reputational damage?
- Phishing scams. Phishing relies on human error. The scammer contacts the victim via email, phone, or other means and impersonates a trustworthy person or organization (such as a company executive or co-worker). Phishing scammers lure victims into sharing confidential data or downloading malicious files disguised as reports, financial documents, etc.
- Ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed for one purpose: to encrypt important files so they are inaccessible and to exploit them so that the victim pays a ransom to regain access to the data. Hackers using ransomware also often threaten to leak data. This type of attack many times ties to phishing scams.
- Data breaches. A data breach occurs when unauthorized individuals gain access to sensitive data. They don’t all require hacking into systems – sometimes, data breaches occur simply by accessing employees’ devices (e.g., by stealing them).
- Man-in-the-middle attacks. A man-in-the-middle attack means that a hacker (or hackers) intercepts and decrypts (if necessary) information passing between two seemingly secure parties. Hackers oftentimes ransom or sell stolen data.
How to protect companies’ reputations in the digitized world?
As proven, a single data breach can lead to a huge drop in a company’s overall credibility. Cybersecurity can no longer be a simple checkbox to check but should be at the heart of all operations. Building and maintaining trust is the key. How to achieve it?
Here are some tips:
Implement a zero-trust policy: A zero-trust policy means that no one in your company can be trusted. It sounds harsh, but it is one of the best ways to minimize the risk of human error and unauthorized access to data. Make sure that no one in your company can join the network without permission and that employees only have access to the data they need.
Invest in technology: Modern security goes far beyond strong passwords and avoiding suspicious ads. If you want your operations to be secure, you need the right hardware and software. Tools like VPNs will help you encrypt and protect your data, while firewalls will block some attempts to access your network without permission.
Use split tunneling: What is split tunneling? A feature offered by recommended VPNs. It allows you to split your traffic between two “tunnels” – a normal one and an extra-protected one. This feature is great for businesses, as it will enable them to use their internal networks normally while protecting the data sent over the web.
Build awareness in your company: Train your employees and conduct regular simulations to reduce the risk of human error. After all, phishing is one of the biggest threats to businesses. If you want your employees to be immune to it, make sure they know what they are dealing with.
Build your organizational culture around cybersecurity: Treat security as something that is an integral part of your business – not just an add-on. Make sure every process is integrated with best practices and everyone in the company is on the same page.