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Cyber Threats and Security Tips for Small Businesses in 2024


If there were a way to see cyber threats before they hit, no business would ever fall victim to attacks. Sadly, there's really no way to predict the future of cybercrime. Malicious actors will always invent new ways to compromise your cybersecurity efforts and steal your data. However, that doesn't mean you have to take it lying down. 

While predicting the future is not within our scope as a cybersecurity services provider, Intelligent Technical Solutions (ITS) believes that data can guide us in making smarter cybersecurity decisions. In other words, we can all learn from past mistakes to develop better solutions for the future. 

 In this article, we'll take an in-depth look at Verizon's 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) to find out what cybersecurity trends were the most prevalent in 2023 and what you can do to prepare for them in 2024. 

Cyber Threats to Prepare for in 2024 

Take a look at some of the most common cyber threats businesses encountered this 2023 and how you should prepare for them: 

1. Ransomware

a ransomware attack-1Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts an organization's data so hackers can hold it for ransom that the victim will have to pay in order to restore access. According to the report, ransomware accounted for 24% of all breaches in 2023, and the median cost per incident doubled to $26,000. That study also found that ransomware attacks are becoming more sophisticated and targeted and can affect any industry or sector. 

How to address the threat: 

To prevent ransomware, organizations should implement backup and recovery strategies, use strong encryption and authentication methods, and educate their employees on how to spot and avoid malicious links. 

Related: The 2023 Oakland Ransomware Attack: 6 Lessons for Businesses 

2. Social Engineering

social engineeringSocial engineering is a technique that uses cognitive manipulation in order to trick users into giving up an organization's sensitive information. These are typically done through human interaction, such as phishing, pretexting, or baiting. The report found that social engineering was involved in 50% of all breaches in 2023 and that pretexting (also known as Business Email Compromise or BEC) increased by 108%. Social engineering attacks exploit the trust and curiosity of people and can cause financial losses, data theft, or reputation damage. 

VIDEO: What is Social Engineering? 

How to address the threat: 

To combat social engineering, you should train your staff on how to recognize and report suspicious messages, use multi-factor authentication and verification processes, and monitor their email and network activity. 

3. Cloud Security

security of cloud computingMore organizations are migrating their data and applications to the cloud, but they are also exposing themselves to new risks and challenges. The report revealed that cloud-based assets were compromised in 24% of breaches in 2023 and that misconfiguration errors were the most common cause of cloud breaches. 

How to address the threat: 

Cloud security requires a shared responsibility between you and the cloud service provider. How secure it will be will depend on whether you have the proper configuration and management of your cloud resources. To secure your cloud-based assets, you should follow the best practices and guidelines provided by your cloud service provider, use encryption and access control mechanisms, and conduct regular audits and reviews of your cloud environment. 

4. Web Application Attacks

web application attacksWeb application attacks are malicious activities that target web applications by exploiting vulnerabilities in their design or implementation. These typically include apps and services such as e-commerce platforms, online banking, or content management systems. The report showed that web application attacks were the most common breach vector in 2023, accounting for 39% of all breaches. They are usually done by exploiting vulnerabilities in the application code, configuration, or authentication mechanisms and can result in data theft, denial of service, or defacement. 

How to address the threat: 

To prevent web application attacks, organizations should apply security patches and updates regularly, use secure coding practices and frameworks, and implement web application firewalls and intrusion detection systems. 

5. Credential Theft

credential theftCredential theft is a type of cybercrime that involves stealing a victim's proof of identity. Cyber actors usually target the login credentials of your organization's users or employees, such as usernames, passwords, or tokens. The report indicated that credential theft was involved in 23% of breaches in 2023, and stolen credentials were the most common form of hacking. Credential theft can enable attackers to access an organization's systems and data, impersonate legitimate users, or launch further attacks. 

How to address the threat: 

Protecting against credential theft requires organizations to enforce strong password policies and standards, use multi-factor authentication and single sign-on solutions, and monitor their login activity and logs. 

6. Insider Threats

insider threatSome of the biggest threats to watch out for are those that originate from within your organization, such as current or former employees, contractors, or partners. The report revealed that insider threats were responsible for 17% of breaches in 2023 and that financial gain and convenience were the main motives. Insider threats can pose a significant risk to an organization's security, as they can bypass security controls, abuse their privileges, or leak sensitive information. 

How to address the threat: 

To mitigate insider threats, you should implement the principle of least privilege, conduct background checks and security awareness training, and establish clear policies and procedures for reporting incidents. 

7. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

artificial intelligence-1Generative AI is one of the newer threats that made it into the report. It can enable more sophisticated and smart AI-powered attacks. For example, deepfake social engineering attempts can allow a malicious actor to mimic a person's face or voice to trick victims into providing sensitive data. It can also enable hackers to develop automated malware that intelligently adapts to evade detection. 

How to address the threat: 

While AI can be a major threat to your cybersecurity, on the flip side, it can also help improve it. AI can help detect, evade, or neutralize threats thanks to real-time anomaly detection, smart authentication, and automated incident response. To leverage generative AI for cyber security, you should invest in developing and deploying generative AI solutions and monitor and audit their performance and impact. 

8. Cyber Skills Shortage

cyber skilled personnelThe cyber skills shortage refers to the gap between the number of skilled security personnel and the high demand for their expertise. The shortage continues to be one of the most frustrating challenges for many businesses. That's because it's a problem you can't solve by just throwing money at it or using your technical know-how to fix it. And it's getting worse. Research indicates that a majority (54%) of cyber security professionals believe that the impact of the skills shortage on their organization has worsened over the past two years. 

How to address the threat: 

To address the cyber skills shortage, you should increase your investment in training, development, and upskilling programs and offer competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain talent. You can also look into outsourcing to a managed security services provider (MSSP), as they already have trained and qualified teams to help with your cybersecurity efforts. 

Need Help Preparing for Cyber Threats in 2024? 

We can't predict the future when it comes to cyber threats, but we can take a look at existing data to help guide our decisions so we can prepare for them. Doing that will help us prevent threats before they become real problems. 

ITS has helped hundreds of businesses prepare for all cyber threats like ransomware, social engineering, and credential theft. Find out how we can help you bolster your security efforts by scheduling a free IT security assessment with one of our experts. Or, you can check out the following resources for more security tips: 

3 Types of Cybersecurity Solutions your Business Must Have