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Debunking 5 Cyber Security Myths for SMBs

Data Protection & SecurityAs owners and leaders of small and midsize businesses (SMBs), we have limited resources for IT and cybersecurity.  We should not be surprised, therefore, that SMBs face the biggest threat from ransomware and other cyber attacks.  Beyond the cost and risk of ransomware and encryption attacks, SMBs face business email compromise (BEC) attacks and threats to disclose regulated information.  Recovery costs, fines, and legal actions resulting from a successful attack can destroy your business. And yet, many SMBs remain unaware of the risk and/or lacking reasonable data protections and security.  This post intends to debunk five (5) cyber security myths for SMBs.

1My company is too
small to be a target

While note every attack is successful, one global report states that 86% of SMBs have been hit by ransomware attacks, with 20% attacked more than six times. With fewer resources and less focus on cyber security, SMBs represent an attractive target for attackers.  The increase in remote work and use of remote desktop protocols creates additional opportunities for attackers. Securing and managing these services requires time and attention.

The impact of a successful ransomware attack continues to increase.  According to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, the average cost of a successful ransomware attack grew from an average of $34,000 to just under $200,000.

2I cannot afford to protect
against cyber attacks

Cyber attacks are inevitable. Protecting your business does not require expensive solutions.  Your cost for endpoint protection for your devices, advanced threat protection for email, and security awareness training is pennies per day per person.  You can deploy multi-factor authentication (MFA), local disk encryption, and the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) protocols for free. You can deploy cloud-based business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) for less than traditional backup/recovery solutions.

3I have backups,
so I am safe

Not all backup solutions are equal.  Many backup/recovery solutions for SMBs run on the same servers and networks as your business systems. Ransomware and other cyber attacks will seek out and encrypt/damage backup servers to render your backups useless.  Your backup/recovery solutions should be segregated from your production network and systems to shield them from attack.  Business Continuity/DR solutions offer the additional ability to bring systems back on line in an alternate cloud data center while you recover your primary systems.

4Technology alone
will save me

As with most security protocols, people are your first line of defense.  As many as 93% of cyber attacks begin with a phishing attack. People click on links, unwittingly downloading malware or sharing usernames and passwords.

Security awareness training should be a standard practice within your business.  The training is a proven way to reduce risk, decrease infections and help desk requests, reduce the chances of a security breach and strengthen the overall security posture.

5Cyber resiliency is
too hard to achieve

Cyber Resilience is the ability to withstand security attacks and land on your feet, no matter what happens. Cyber resilience protects your business, customers, and employees from ransomware, business email compromise, and other potential issues and attacks.

While some gaps in security will always remain, you can affordably improve your cyber resiliency.

To overcome these 5 small business cyber security myths, review your security footprint, and improve your resilience, please contact us by email, via our website, or by scheduling time directly with one of our Cloud advisors, with any questions or concerns regarding this service update.

IT Security for Small Businesses

Security, Privacy, & ComplianceStreamlining IT Security for SMBs

Streamlining IT security is a more balanced message about why and how to protect your business. Over the past year, we have covered the on-going, and increasing, threats to small businesses.  We often highlight the scope and severity of the risk, including how security trends will affect small business.  Hopefully this information, along with cost-effective solutions, prompts you to act. At times, we may appear to be fear-mongering.

Sound business practices, not fear, should be your motivation to protect against cyber attacks.

The market is awash with cyber security solutions. These range from single-protection products to complex advanced security monitoring and response services.  The number of options, and competing claims, is overwhelming.

Our Recommendations on IT Security for Small Businesses

Focus protections on the most common, and most damaging, types of attacks.

1. Focus on Risks

We know that:

  • More than 80% of cyber attacks start with, or involve email via phishing and other social engineering tactics
  • Ransomware is the most common type of attack
  • Business email compromise (BEC) is the most costly type of attack
  • Attacks via DNS and web content are becoming more of a risk

As such, small and midsize businesses should focus on preventing these types of attacks. Plan to limit your security approach and spending to prevention and recovery from these risks.

2. Use our CPR model as a guide

Communication and Education

Make sure your team knows how to spot an attack and what to do if they suspect an attack.  They should know the risks and steps you are taking to protect your business.

Periodically sharing articles or updates may be sufficient to strengthen your business.  Subscribing to a security awareness training service is an affordable way to provide this education. Your cyber insurance policy may require this service.

Protect and Prevent

To protect your business from the greatest risks, put the following solutions in place:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Encrypt data at rest, including on servers, desktops, and laptops
  • Use advanced threat protection (ATP) on all email accounts for inbound messages
  • Ensure your endpoint protection (local anti-virus) is a next-gen solution
  • Use DNS/Web protection to prevent harmful downloads

Specific to business email compromise attacks and ensuring your legitimate emails are not flagged as dangerous, ensure your domain configuration include the following protocols and services:

  • An accurate and complete Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record
  • DomainKey Identified Mail (DKIM) for all sources of email (including marketing tools)
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC)

Respond and Recover

Even with protections in place, cyber attacks can be successful.  Ensure that you can return to operations quickly, even as a full recovery may take time. Your ability to recover and respond should include:

  • Backup/Recover data stored in the cloud (Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, etc.), as well as on local servers, desktops, and laptops
  • Continuity services so you can run images of key servers, desktops, and laptops if they are damaged by an attack

Note that continuity services also protects you from the impact of hardware issues, theft, and other losses.

Start with an Assessment to See Where Your Small Business Stands with IT Security

For a limited time, our Rapid Security Assessment is free of charge. Complete a 3 minute survey and receive a detailed report benchmarking your basic security services with respect to the most common cyber attacks against small and midsize enterprises.  

To learn more, please join us on May 17th at 3:00 PM ET for Streamlining Security, our May 3T@3 Webcast or schedule a no-obligation call with one of our cloud advisors.


Business Email Compromise – The Costliest Type of Cybercrime

Email, Communications, & MobilityBusiness Email Compromise

While the massive number and scale of ransomware attacks get the most media attention, Business Email Compromise (“BEC“) attacks are the costliest type of cybercrime.

What is a Business Email Compromise (BEC)?

In a BEC attack, the criminal impersonates you and convinces somebody who trusts you to send money. While successful attacks often begin with unauthorized access to your email account, savvy criminals use email and domain impersonation techniques. They trick others into thinking that you are asking for, or instructing them to complete, a money transfer.

As we noted in a recent post, real estate agents and brokers are prime targets of Business Email Compromise attacks because they regularly discuss transferring large amounts of money with their clients. As noted in this recent email scam article from the Associated Press, however, BEC attacks are hitting a wide range of small businesses, nonprofits, and schools.

Business Email Compromise attacks succeed when cyber criminals are able to collate enough information about you to gain access to your account or impersonate you.  Here is how they do it:

  • Given that you use your email address to log into many systems, a third party breach can provide attackers with your email address and enough information to calculate your password.
  • Third party breaches often provide hackers with enough personally identifiable information (PII) about you to launch a successful phishing attack that captures your username and password.
  • Scanning social media posts can also provide hackers with enough PII to successfully phish for your identity.
  • Malware, known as an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), that makes it past your endpoint protections can gather usernames, passwords, and other information while running undetected on your computer.

How to Prevent Business Email Compromise

Protect Your Identity

To keep your email account secure, you need to protect your identity.

  • Understand the risks and follow practical advice for safe online hygiene. Use unique, complex passwords across systems; avoid oversharing personal information; and learn to recognize phishing and impersonation attacks.
  • Use “Next-Gen” endpoint protections to prevent zero-day attacks, APTs, and more traditional forms malware.  These solutions use heuristics, AI, and behavioral analysis of files to identify an attack. They can also “roll back” changes to stop an attack.

Secure Your Email Service, and All of Your Services

Even as you protect your identity, you still need to secure your email service through proper data protection and security services.

  • Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) protects your account from phishing attacks, bad links, infected attachments, and other risks. ATP verifies sender information and test links and attachments in a “sandbox”, allowing safe messages to arrive in your inbox.
  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), or Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), can prevent access to your accounts if your username and password are compromised.
  • Ensure that all of your information is encrypted at-rest and in-motion. Your email service should use Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt messages between sending and receiving services.  Encrypt files on your local disk, on any file servers, and in the cloud.

Prevent Email and Domain Impersonation

As noted in a recent blog post, you can use three (3) different levels of email security to prevent email and domain impersonation.

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF): Authenticates addresses you use to send email.
  • DomainKeys Identified Email (DKIM): Digitally signs messages to ensure emails are not altered en-route.
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC): Authenticates email origin and instructs recipients how to process bad messages. A DMARC service will track and report any potential issues.

These protocols and a DMARC monitoring service offer the best protection against BEC and impersonation attacks. They also help improve the deliverability of your email. Our ebook, Email Security: Good, Better, Best, dives deeper into this topic.

For a limited time, our Rapid Security Assessment is free of charge. Complete a 3 minute survey and receive a detailed report benchmarking your basic security services with respect to the most common cyber attacks against small and midsize enterprises.  

 

Different Types of Email Security Features

Different Types Of Email Security Solutions Can Help Protect your Business

When launched Cumulus Global 15 years ago to provide small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with email security and security solutions. As early adopters, we saw how managed cloud services and solutions made enterprise grade solutions affordable and effective for small businesses.  While much as changed over the past decade and a half, we still face email-based threats.

Email Attacks are Easy

According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Report, email remains one of the most common vectors for attacks. And, phishing attacks are at the top of the list. Email phishing attacks remain prevalent because they are relatively easy. Cyber attackers are able to say one step ahead of our defenses, in large part to the rise in social engineering. With more of our personal information available through social media, attackers can use psychological tactics and personalized messaging to target specific individuals (spear phishing) and business leaders (whaling). In doing so, they garner sensitive information and gain access to systems and data.

Business Email Compromise

Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks impersonate your email domains or emails for specific users. In most instances, BEC attacks look and feel like legitimate emails from your business. Combined with social engineering tactics and personalize information, they are hard to spot and often successful.  Cyber security attacks can be “internal” that target your employees, or “external” that use your business to defraud your customers and associates.

Email and Domain Impersonation

Preventing email and domain impersonation attacks bypass account level security, including multi-factor authentication. To prevent these attacks, recipients should only accept email that can be authenticated as coming from your domain.

Different Types of Email Security Protection: Good, Better, Best

Currently, you have three levels of email domain security that can protect your business and your identity: Good, Better, and Best.

Good: SPF Sender Policy Framework

SPF verifies emails sent from valid IP addresses, either from your domain or authorized senders. While most small businesses have an SPF record configured, errors cause individual emails, or emails from marketing and CRM systems, to be flagged as spam by the recipient. Cyber attackers can spoof email addresses to give the appearance of a validated sender.

Better: DKIM DomainKeys Identified Mail

DKIM verifies that have been digitally signed by the sending domain, or by services sending email on behalf of the domain. Proper configuration is technical and involves cryptographic key management; errors can lead to fake messages with valid DKIM signatures. Cyber attackers can remove the DKIM signature using sophisticated relay attacks.

Best: DMARC Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting,
and Conformance

DMARC authenticates email origin by aligning identifiers from SPF and DKIM, and instructs recipients to deliver, quarantine, or reject failed emails by policy. DKIM helps improve email deliverability. Is the best protection against email and domain impersonation attacks, whether they target your employees, vendors, or customers. Reporting enables you to see email sources and manage your policies.

Protect Your Business With Our Email Security Services

While you set up SPF and DKIM with DNS record entries, DMARC is best implemented as a service. Doing so provides you access to settings, reports, and analysis tools. For most small and midsize businesses, the level of protection DMARC provides is worth the minimal cost.

You can learn more with our eBook: Email Security: Good, Better, Best.

To discuss your email security configuration, make an appointment with one of our Cloud Advisors, send us an email, or fill out our contact form.

Business Email Compromise: 10 Stats; 5 Solutions

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a type of phishing-related fraud with far-reaching consequences. Not only can BEC attacks hurt your business, companies you work with can be damaged as well. BEC threats are hard to detect and mitigate, given the a byzantine structure of the attack.

Here are 10 statistics that demonstrate the increasing risk of BEC attacks, along with 5 solutions that reduce the chance of your business becoming a victim.

10 BEC Statistics

1Business email compromise rose by 14% overall in 2020 and up to 80% in some sectors
265% of organizations faced BEC attacks in 2020

3In 2020, BEC costs increased rapidly, from $54,000 in Q1 2020 to $80,183 in Q2.
4The energy and infrastructure sector topped the 2020 list with 93% of attacks
560% of the information on the dark web could potentially damage businesses

6In 2020, 80% of firms experienced an increase in cyberattacks

762% of BEC scams involve the cybercriminal asking for gift or money cards.
8The most common type of BEC scam is invoice or payment fraud
9Payment/invoice/billing scams skyrocketed by 155%, in 2020

10The average amount requested in wire transfer-based BEC attacks nearly doubled to $75,000 in the fourth quarter.

Protecting Against BEC Attacks

The most effective way to prevent business email compromise attacks is a strong, multifaceted defense against the primary delivery system: phishing email.  Here are 5 solutions that help you mitigate threats and the risk of successful cyber attacks.

1 Phishing Resistance Training

An absolute must-have for any organization in today’s tumultuous world is a strong cybersecurity culture. Too many employees are still clicking on dangerous messages. Strengthen your security culture and reduce your risk of suffering email-based cyberattacks by up to 70%.

2 Advanced Threat Protection

Go beyond attack profiles and blacklist lookups. Take advantage of next-gen protections that assess content and context, leverage machine learning, and analyze the behavior of links and attachments.

3 DNS / Web Protection

Secure your DNS traffic to help prevent cyber attacks that spoof or use your identity.  Block known, dangerous web sites. Block malicious web content and downloads, even from trusted sites that have been hacked.

4 Identity Access Management

Secure your user identities over time with a comprehensive approach. Include multi-factor authentication, password vaults, and single-sign on for your best protection.

5 Dark Web Monitoring

Your team probably uses their work email address (identity) to log into third party services. Breaches in these services put your business at risk. Monitor you domain for potential breaches so you can take action before you become a victim.

To learn more about these Business Email Compromise, other cyber threats, and solutions to fit your needs and budget, contact us and schedule a complimentary Cloud Advisor Session.

 

Webcasts

Get IT Ready for Recession

(7/19/2022) – Cutting IT costs can help your bottom line in the near-term, but may do more harm than good. Smart IT planning helps your business survive and thrive through a recession and beyond.

A Cyber Insurance Primer

(6/21/2022) – With the increase in cyber attacks, cyber insurance is a necessity. All too often, however, businesses learn that the process is significantly more complicated. Cyber Insurance is a tool, not a solution.

Streamlining Security

(5/17/2022) – While small businesses are more vulnerable and more frequent targets of cyber attacks, constant fear-mongering and hype does not help. Sound business practices, not fear, should be your motivation to protect against cyber attacks.

library

Email Security: Good, Better, Best

eBook | Source: Cumulus Global —
Cyber attacks by email have skyrocketed over the last decade. Email and domain impersonation attacks, fueled by successful phishing attacks, bypass account-centric security. This eBook discusses how to protect your business and domain from Business Email Compromises and impersonation attacks.