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2023 Was a Bad Year for Cybersecurity, and 2024 Promises to be Worse

2023 Was a Bad Year for Cybersecurity, and 2024 Promises to be Worse

Over the last several years, cybersecurity threats have become increasingly prevalent and sophisticated. With the rise of remote work and the Internet of Things (IoT), companies are facing a growing number of vulnerabilities and attacks. In fact, a recent study found that 81 percent of companies experienced malware, phishing, and password attacks in 2023. Most of these attacks were targeting end users directly.

The Top Cybersecurity Threats in 2023

Remote Work Can Be Secure, But Most Businesses are Lacking

A total of 62 percent of companies suffered a security breach that was somehow related to remote working. Most breaches included a human element, meaning that a user was tricked into clicking something or making some other mistake that led to the data breach.

Malware Attacks are Still a Big Problem

Malware is a type of software designed to harm or exploit a computer system. In 2023, malware attacks were among the most common types of cybersecurity threats. While a lot of malware can be mitigated fairly easily with proper security solutions, novel strains of malware and those that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities are still a big problem.

These attacks can come in various forms, such as viruses, worms, trojans, and ransomware. They can be spread through email attachments, infected websites, or even through physical devices like USB drives. The most destructive malware tends to find its way in by tricking users.

Malware attacks can have severe consequences for companies, including data breaches, financial loss, and damage to reputation. To defend against malware attacks, companies should have robust antivirus software in place, regularly update their systems and software, and educate employees on how to spot and avoid potential threats.

Phishing Attacks are Worse Than Ever, But SMS-Based Attacks are Even More Effective

Phishing attacks involve tricking individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information. These attacks often come in the form of fake emails or websites that appear to be from a legitimate source. Virtually every business faces spam and phishing attacks. 

Phishing attacks can be challenging to defend against because they rely on human error. Employees may unknowingly click on a malicious link or provide sensitive information to a fake website. To combat phishing attacks, companies should implement email security measures, such as spam filters and email authentication protocols. It also helps to establish a culture of zero-trust. In other words, don’t trust email correspondence that is trying to get you to actively do something unless you expected it. This goes both ways; if you are sending an email asking someone to download an attachment, click on a link, or do anything involving sensitive information or money, include a secondary way to contact the recipient. This could be a quick phone call or text message or instant message. This authenticates your actions in the email. The same goes for recipients; if you get an unexpected attachment, link, or request to share information, follow up with a phone call or some other way to authenticate the request. Yes, it’s additional work, but it’s so easy for cybercriminals to spoof legitimate-looking emails and cause havoc.

SMS/text-based attacks tend to be even more dangerous, because the average user is 6 to 10 times more likely to fall for them compared to email-based attacks. If your business utilizes text messaging, you’ll want to also provide training and security for the devices involved.

Poor Cybersecurity Hygiene Stinks!

Weak or stolen passwords are a significant vulnerability for companies. If someone uses the same password for multiple accounts, if one account is compromised, all of the other accounts are at risk.

Think this is unlikely? The popular DNA ancestry service 23andMe proved how much of a problem this really is.

Early in December, the company revealed that 14 thousand accounts had been breached by hackers. The hackers weren’t doing anything particularly special to steal the data—they were logging in as the account holders with the correct usernames and passwords. The hackers allegedly took stolen passwords from other past data breaches (major services get breached all the time) and found 14 thousand accounts that used the same credentials on a service that was breached and 23andMe. 

This just goes to show you how bad this problem is, and how easily it is exploited. The solution is simple; never use the same password twice, and always utilize multi-factor authentication. The problem is that people aren’t following this advice.

The Importance of Cyber Defense

With the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks, it's crucial for companies to have a strong cyber defense strategy in place. This includes a combination of technology, processes, and employee training to protect against potential threats.

Technology

Investing in the right cybersecurity technology is essential for defending against cyberattacks. This includes antivirus software, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption tools. Companies should also consider implementing security measures for remote workers, such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and secure remote access tools.

Processes

Having well-defined processes in place can help prevent and mitigate the impact of cyberattacks. This includes regular system and software updates, data backups, and disaster recovery plans. Companies should also have incident response plans in place to quickly and effectively respond to any potential breaches.

Employee Training

Employees are often the weakest link in a company's cyber defense. It's crucial to educate employees on cybersecurity best practices, such as how to identify and report potential threats, how to create strong passwords, and how to securely handle sensitive information. Regular training and awareness programs can help employees stay vigilant and prevent potential attacks.

IoT Vulnerabilities

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity. While IoT devices offer convenience and efficiency, they also pose significant cybersecurity risks. In 2023, 45% of companies experienced IoT-related vulnerabilities, making it a top concern for cybersecurity professionals.

IoT devices often lack robust security measures, making them easy targets for hackers. These devices can be used to launch attacks on a company's network or to steal sensitive information. To defend against IoT vulnerabilities, companies should implement security measures, such as strong passwords and regular updates, for all IoT devices. They should also segment their networks to prevent a compromised IoT device from affecting the entire system.

The Future of Cybersecurity

As technology continues to advance, so will the sophistication of cyberattacks. Companies must stay vigilant and adapt their cybersecurity strategies to keep up with these evolving threats. This includes investing in the latest security technology, regularly training employees, and staying informed about emerging threats and vulnerabilities.

Datalyst Can Help Your Business Prepare for 2024

In 2023, companies faced a growing number of cybersecurity threats, including malware, phishing, password attacks, and IoT vulnerabilities and it’s only going to get worse. To defend against these threats, companies must have a strong cyber defense strategy in place, including the right technology, processes, and employee training. By staying vigilant and adapting to the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape, companies can protect themselves from potential attacks and keep their sensitive information safe. To get started, give us a call at (774) 213-9701 today.

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