The near exponential rise of cybercrime is one of the biggest threats to enterprise continuity in the digital age, and attacks, hacks and exploits were recently named as the number-one concern for businesses in the US. The latest Cost of Data Breach Study published by IBM found that the total average consolidated cost of a breach surged to a staggering $4 million last year, and that figure is set to grow further by the end of the decade.

“The majority of successful cyberattacks are not that sophisticated but can cause serious commercial damage,” the UK-based National Cyber Security Centre’s CEO, Ciaran Martin, says. “By getting the basic defenses right, businesses of every size can protect their reputation, finances and operating capabilities.”

Common cybersecurity attacks

No two cybersecurity attacks are alike, but hackers generally draw on a collection of tried-and-trusted, highly effective methods. Malware is perhaps the most well-known, as it can be used to gain access to a person’s computer either at home or at work, and it comes in various forms, such as ransomware and viruses, which are generally installed by the user via an initially harmless-looking attachment or file. Once malware is on a computer or other connected device, it can source sensitive data, monitor actions and take control of the system.

Denial of Service (DoS) attacks have been particularly troublesome for big corporations in recent years. They involve flooding a website with a colossal amount of traffic to bring the server to a standstill, which makes it impossible for users to access it. Phishing scams can also be a big problem for businesses, as evidenced by 48-year-old scammer Evaldas Ramasauskas, who recently managed to trick employees at a tech company to wire him $100 million. Spear phishing uses advertisements and messages to achieve this aim, so executives need to be extremely careful when perusing suspicious emails.

Outdated hardware and software

Business laggards are more likely to be targeted by these attacks due to the rapidly evolving business landscape. IT assets such as servers and old and outdated hardware are much more vulnerable to attacks. To mitigate the risks of cyberthreats, it is vital to upgrade to the latest tech and update software. Illegal and pirated software is also a common source of malware, so it is important to use legitimate applications.

Lack of security

Many SMEs often have a lackadaisical approach to cybersecurity, as they believe that they don’t really have anything of value worth stealing. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as sensitive data theft can have a devastating impact on a business and its brand image. Building a culture focused on cybersecurity is the only way to tackle online crime in the long term.

“Because of the size, complexity and constant evolution of attack vectors, there is no simple, one-size-fits-all approach to managing the risks associated with cybersecurity,” IT experts at Crowe Horwath say. “Nevertheless, it is essential to begin somewhere to establish a baseline for identifying critical components.”

Business solution overview

Extensive cybersecurity training, effective anti-malware solutions, policies covering Internet usage and bring-your-own device schemes and access to data are all required to overhaul an enterprise’s security endeavors. A recent PwC study found that only a third of enterprises have a cyber incident response plan, so identifying common attacks and developing policies should be the first port of call to build a robust security foundation. You should also look at ways of reducing risk, such as moving sensitive data to the cloud and educating employees about dangers – half of the respondents in a recent survey said that poor password management and unauthorized downloads were the number-one cause for breaches.

Threat to the general public

SMEs and large corporations aren’t the only targets for cybercriminals, though. In the UK, for example, a study found that one in ten people – representing all age groups, a range of social backgrounds and living in all areas of the country – have been the victim of fraud or other online offenses. If you want to learn more about cybersecurity threats, whether to simply protect yourself or to pursue a career in the field, you could take an educational course like Maryville’s online Masters in Cyber Security degree.

The main threat again comes from malware, which can inadvertently be installed on personal computers and laptops. Social networking is also a huge threat to personal users, with Cisco revealing that Facebook scams were the most popular malware distribution type in 2015, and the FBI stating that attacks on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram have quadrupled in recent years. Some other forms of scams and attacks include account takeovers, customer fraud, impersonations of brands and counterfeit sales. You must be vigilant at all times when online, and you should make sure to report any erroneous logins or suspicious activity as well as update your password regularly and opt against clicking on unknown links.

The specter of cybercrime is vast, ever increasing and impossible to eliminate entirely, but both businesses and personal users can mitigate damage by recognizing the dangers and implementing an effective strategy to reduce its impact.