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  • Writer's pictureFraser Baron-Moorhouse

Why is a Cyber Aware IT Support Provider Important for SMEs?

Every week, there seems to be news of yet another business falling victim to a cyber-attack. You might ask yourself, “Why would I need to know about cyber-attacks? My IT support handle that?”


Business leaders must understand the severity, makeup and mitigation methods of cyber-attacks to ask their managed service provider if they protect their business from cyber threats.


Phishing Attacks


Phishing is one of the most common cyber-security breach scenarios to take place. Phishing attacks come in the form of an email landing in the victim’s inbox, appearing to be from a genuine sender but sent by a hacker. These emails will attach a link or file or attempt to get the victim to provide them sensitive information, such as card details, over email. There are technological and user-training mitigation methods to circumvent a phishing attack.


A cyber-aware IT support provider can advise you on their options for phishing mitigation. These options can include:

  • Providing security awareness training across your business. This will involve sending dummy phishing emails to the business with giveaways to their nature for the users to pick out. Often the tests will not be communicated to the business to get a true response from the users. The results of such a test are recorded, and further training can be provided to the users that fell victim to the test. It is important to also provide training to those that were vigilant to the emails to sure up their detective skills.

  • Implementation of SPF authentication. SPF stands for Sender Policy Framework. SPF is used to properly authenticate sender addresses and their messages to detect forgery during the email delivery process. SPF is a technical but simple protection method to install, and your IT provider should be able to configure an SPF authentication method on your business emails.

  • Multi-factor Authentication (MFA.) MFA seems to be everywhere these days. It feels like it won’t be long before our front door keys will require an MFA code to allow us into our homes. As much of an inconvenience MFA is to us in our day-to-day lives, it could be the only barrier stopping your account from being compromised in a phishing attack. Let’s say that despite all the training and all the technical barriers, a malicious email gets through, and you or one of your colleagues falls for a phishing attack… happens to the best of us. So the hacker now has login details or bank details. One thing they don’t have is your ever-changing authentication code. This will prevent your accounts from being compromised and allow you time to change your password or contact the bank to lock out any criminals.

Malware


Malware is an umbrella term for any malicious software. Malware is used to gain unauthorised access to a system or the network the machine is on. Once the malware is in it, it will provide a backdoor for the hackers to steal or damage data on the network or machine.


It is common for malware to enter a business via email. Hackers sending malware can fire the malicious package to a whole directory of email addresses or target their messages to one address in a business.


Often a targeted attack is focused on a senior staff member, CEO, Managing director etc. Another vector that hackers can exploit is personnel with access to sensitive data, think Finance staff and HR. Targeting personnel with a high privilege level to sensitive information gives the malware the same level of access. Therefore it is very important to keep these harmful programs out.


Malware is one of the greatest threats to a business. Your business must be protected from malware. It might be easy to fall into compliancy believing your IT Service provider is on top of your malware defences. While it is common for MSPs to have an anti-virus offering, it is important to understand what that is and if it is active on your network.


Ransomware


Ransomware is a type of malicious software that is designed to encapsulate the victim’s data behind a paywall. The files will be encrypted and will only be decrypted when the ransom is paid, though it is common for the files to be lost even after the ransom is paid.


The threat of ransomware is ever-growing. Many cyber-security experts estimate that a ransomware attack occurs every 11 seconds. Let's examine an example of ransomware and what can be done by a Managed Service Provider to mitigate and take precautions against the threat of ransomware.


What has happened in the video above is a textbook and regularly occurring event that can cripple, if not destroy, an SME. While governments and large police organisations work to disable the roots of such programs and their creators, organisations must take steps to protect their businesses from these threats.


Working with a Managed Service Provider, they should be able to provide you with an efficient, monitored backup solution for your business. This will protect your business in this situation by it having an up-to-date copy of all your business files; you can circumvent the threat of encrypted files by having them copied to a secure location.


I have a backup solution in place; job done?


Not quite. The best course of action is not to need a backup solution. By implementing many of the solutions mentioned earlier in this blog, such as security awareness training, SPF authentication, anti-virus and mail filtering, you can prevent the ransomware from touching the network to begin with.


Do I need to educate my employees on using AI and chatbots?


ChatGPT is one of the most impressive publicly available chatbots to be released. It allows anyone to be more efficient and automate routine or repetitive tasks. For businesses, it could power a customer support bot or write an email response for you, which allows more time on higher priority tasks.


We recommend that any employer (or managers) educate themselves and those around you about the potential risks of using chatbots and the dangers of ChatGPT. Make sure you clearly define the scope for which employees could use chatbots and the limitations that might be in place.


This blog was written by our cyber essentials partner, Air-IT. As well as helping you with Cyber Essentials certification, ​​Concise Technologies provide innovative and cost-effective IT and Telecoms network support and services across Cheshire and the North West.


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Raise your staff's awareness of phishing emails and guard your business against the growing trend of social-engineering threats.

 

Training your employees on what a phishing attack looks like makes them more likely to identify and report scams.

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