How Can Small Businesses Protect Themselves Against Nation- State Cyber-Attack?

How Can Small Businesses Protect Themselves Against Nation- State Cyber-Attack?

If you work within a small business or start-up then you will no doubt have noticed an increase in hacking attempts during more recent times. This is a risk that all of today’s organisations, not just the smaller ones, need to face up to.

There has recently been an alarming and marked increase in state actors seemingly becoming more active in hacking attacks against both organisations and businesses. It almost seems as if everyone is now joining in! China has reportedly been implicated in areas such as stealing military data relating to aircraft design and the personal details of US military personnel.

Stolen Patents and Trade Secrets!

Patent designs for patented processes are also alleged to have been stolen from organisations IT networks. A nation states involvement can be understood when it is realised that stolen patents can save the cost of research and development, leveraging from others investment and hard work.

These nefarious activities all ultimately result in exports being produced at a fraction of the usual cost, helping nation states to grow their economies and keep their populations housed, fed and under control!  A case in point would be the Paint manufacturing processes that well known US chemical and paint manufacturing company DuPont uses, these have allegedly been stolen!

In fact, a certain nation state has been accused of stealing DuPont’s trade secrets but proof is another thing entirely!

Small companies and start-ups are particularly vulnerable to attack

Small companies can easily become victims of such hacking attacks, whether by criminals or national state agencies. This is because they will not necessarily have the time, money or knowledge required to properly protect themselves from attacks.

To mitigate the risks of cyber -crime, small companies need to first of all accept the fact that it is more than likely that their inadequate IT security will be breached in the face of a professional assault. They should allocate some budget to protecting themselves. What steps can businesses large and small take to protect their valuable corporate data?

Let’s take a look at the precautions, tools and services that are available on today’s market:

  • Website Penetration Testing – this is a service that an experienced provider can perform to probe a company’s IT security defences. Professional companies such as Security Audit Systems have a vast plethora of tools and techniques they can utilise to identify any holes in an organisations defences whether they be large or small!
  • Penetration Testing Tools – There are many open-source tools available to help you perform penetration testing, such as Metasploit, Wireshark, w3af, CORE Impact and Back Track. Again, specialist service providers can also help here.
  • Security Audit – Systems and tools are also available to perform an IT security audit. Tools and scanners such as BindView’s BV-Control, Nessus, SARA, Hping2 and Whisker can help perform this task. If you are in any doubt then seek the services of a professional organisation that can provide you with a comprehensive audit identifying any weaknesses in your infrastructure.
  • Website Security Systems – Websites are notoriously easy to hack, as they are always online! There are measures that can be taken against hacking websites, for instance WordPress sites can be protected with openly available plug-ins such as WordFence. Reputable IT security auditors such as Security Audit Systems would be well placed to provide assistance should you require expert help in this area.

Simple protective IT security steps any small business should take

To make life as difficult as possible for criminals or other hackers, small businesses should look into taking the following steps as a minimum to ensure data integrity:

  • Strong data encryption. Software is available for this.
  • Distributed data sources. Spread your data sources around.
  • Compartmentalisation of customer data. Don’t keep everything in one place.
  • Install effective and up to date antivirus and firewall software. Ensure that updates and fresh virus definition databases are regularly installed.
  • Test your systems for IT security on a regular basis. Test that everything works as expected often and that data integrity is always therefore maintained.
  • Ensure data is backed up regularly and ring-fenced from your network, preferably physically!

If you follow these simple steps then you will have a basic level of protection in place for your valuable data and thus ensure your IT systems and data’s integrity into the future.

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