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Top cybersecurity threats for professional services firms

The internet has taken hold of nearly every aspect of our daily lives over the past decade. Now that we rely on technology for everything from running our errands to creating satellite offices in our homes, cyber security threats are becoming exponentially more common.

Professional service firms – a unique target to cyber threats

Cybercriminals are able to work their way into our online lives, and that can spell disaster for an unsuspecting or underprepared company.

The Coronavirus-related lockdowns of 2020 increased the number of people working from home to an all-time high, which added some fuel to the cyber security threats we were already facing. Cloud based networks are expanding to accommodate, and armies of associates are performing their duties from all over the world, including on unsecured networks. The best way to keep your assets safe is to understand what you’re looking for.

Professional services firms are a unique target, in that they may have access to the kinds of sensitive information hackers are after. This makes this market segment particularly attractive to cybercriminals. Let’s take a look at some of the current cyber security threats you are most likely to face.

What are the Top cyber threats?

There are so many types of cyber security threats out there, it can feel a little overwhelming. Some are more common than others. Since there are so many types of cyber security threats, the use case for each one is generally dependent on what the cybercriminals are after. An attack by someone who wants money looks different from someone who wants to disrupt business operations. 

Roughly half of the cybercrimes committed against professional services firms involve spying or espionage. The info that can be extracted is both a valuable commodity on the black market and something that can demand a hefty ransom. Firms should be setting up protection against these kinds of attacks, diligently monitoring for any breaches, and quickly correcting any vulnerabilities.

What are the different types of cyber attacks?

There are new threats in cyber security popping up all the time, and learning about them can make you feel vulnerable online. Not to worry. If you’re prepared to handle threats, you can prevent them. Let’s take a look at some of the main threats of 2020 to see what we’re up against. Each of these common cyber attacks could be used for spying and espionage and would be right at home on a list of top 10 cyber security threats.

  • Ransomware – Ransomware has been a nuisance for over three decades, and its popularity is only growing. In a ransomware attack, cybercriminals lock data on a victim’s computer or a network via encryption. Whether that data is something like sensitive PII (personally identifiable information) on clients or customers, or some other sensitive data that companies don’t want to be leaked, it’s always something hackers believe victims will pay to protect. The cybercriminal will require a ransom payment for the decryption key to unlock the data.
  • Phishing – Like ransomware, phishing scams have been around nearly as long as the internet. In its most basic form, cybercriminals trick victims into clicking on links disguised as legitimate correspondence from within the company or from other reputable companies. Those links often direct users to divulge information like PII and login information via a spoofed site that appears genuine. Once criminals collect your information, they may be able to access sensitive data.
  • Deepfakes – Deepfakes are created from a new form of digital photo manipulation that allows people to create fictitious videos of people. In a deepfake, editors are able to make it appear that a person is saying something that they’re not, or even put that person’s face on another person’s body. The technology has gotten good enough that deepfakes are hard to spot because of the nearly seamless editing.
  • Supply chain cyber security threats One of the reasons professional services firms’ are attractive targets of cyber attacks is that many data breaches are made possible by vulnerabilities in third party softwares and systems. Some of the biggest data breaches of the past few decades were initiated through third parties. Protecting yourself also protects your clients.

What were the main cyber threats of 2020?

Some cyber threats have been around a long time, while new ones seem to pop up daily. As criminals and their attacks become more sophisticated, we’ve seen a few trends take hold in popularity.

  • Disruption – A disruption to operations is one of the main ways criminal activity on the internet affects businesses. Cybercriminals can disrupt operations through things like power or internet outages, malware attacks, and denial of service attacks. In a worst-case scenario, a massive attack aimed at disruption could cripple the infrastructures of cities and towns, leaving millions of people without essential services.
  • Distortion – As the idea of fake news has dominated the cycle over the past couple of years, it should come as no surprise that distortion was one of the top cyber security threats 2020 posed for us. Improvements in artificial intelligence and the rise of deepfakes have allowed cybercriminals to deliver nefarious instructions to companies using hijacked identities.
  • Deterioration – Technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that oversight has been unable to keep up. The transparency required by the government and the laws of the land regarding personal privacy and national security put businesses in a pickle when it comes to keeping their data secure. Until these ideas get ironed out, this problematic trend will likely continue.

What are the main cyber threats to watch for in 2021?

We are entering 2021 in much the same way we spent 2020. Employees are working from home, operations have been pushed to the web, and technology is advancing ever faster. Now that 2020 is history, we can learn from it. Here are some of the things we will be watching out for in the new year.

  • Ransomware – This threat likely won’t be leaving us anytime soon. It’s a cash cow for hackers, and the ransomware programs are getting more sophisticated and more automated. As long as cybercriminals are out for money, ransomware will be a threat to look out for.
  • Insider Threats – So much of our workforce has become remote over the past year that insider threats in cyber security are expected to grow. While some insider threats can be attributed to employees who wish the company harm, many of them come down to negligence or ignorance. 2021 is a good year to make tackling these threats a priority.
  • Cloud Attacks – The cloud has become an invaluable resource in today’s business landscape, but if cybercriminals find a way to access yours, you could be in for a world of hurt. Once inside, they can access sensitive data, move company funds, or implement sophisticated phishing schemes.

What is the most dangerous cybercrime?

It could be said that the most dangerous cybercrime is the one you aren’t prepared for. Any cyber attack can do damage, but some do more harm than others. The most dangerous ones are those that are most crippling to your organization. Whether that involves draining your accounts, exposing trade secrets or national secrets, or disrupting your operations to leave millions in the dark, the type of business we are in dictates what crimes cause the most damage.

For a professional services firm, a large scale data breach can be particularly dangerous. Not only can it compromise personally identifiable information on innumerable people, but it can end up costing a lot of money and severely damaging the reputation of your company.

How do cyber threats pose a danger?

While many cyber security threats function to drain the bank accounts of victims, some can do real, physical harm to people. For example, disruptions to things like utilities and supply chains can leave people hungry and without heat. That combination could be catastrophic for vulnerable groups like seniors. 

Some bad actors use cyberattacks to fund weapons programs or expose national secrets. These are national security issues that can put the US and its allies at risk. Vendors with DOD contracts should be particularly vigilant to this type of attack.

Keeping your business protected

Cyberattacks are getting more and more sophisticated, and there’s no indication that trend will slow anytime soon. In fact, some predict cyber crimes will cost the world’s economies over $10 trillion annually by 2025. There’s no time like the present to protect your company from cyber security threats.

Strickland Solutions has been providing services to all spectrums of the business world for the past two decades. Our multi-faceted approach to business solutions allows us to protect your assets from every angle, giving you the freedom to take your business operations to the cloud safely. If you want to learn more, reach out to see what we can do for you and your team.

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