Cyberattacks and data breaches: best practices for protecting your SMB

Cyber attacks and data breaches prevention tips best practices

Small businesses or SMBs are the lifeblood of any economy and Canada is no different. If you’re a small business owner thinking that you’re too insignificant for cybercriminals, you’re wrong. Experts believe that cybercriminals typically need very little resources for mass-producing attacks. SMBs tend to be more vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches since they generally spend less on cybersecurity.

This article explores the best practices you should consider adopting to protect your business from cyberattacks and data breaches. 

6 Best practices for preventing data breaches in your small business

Here are six of the simplest ways you can prevent data breaches in your business.

Improve user awareness

The first step towards protecting your business against cyberattacks and data breaches is improving user awareness about the cybersecurity landscape. With over a third of cyberattacks and data breaches involving internal threat actors, this cannot be overemphasized. Experts believe that improving user awareness within your organization can overall establish your employees as a human firewall.

By improving cybersecurity awareness within your business, you’d be ensuring that your employees understand the threats likely to affect them. They’d also be able to understand how to keep themselves protected or stay away from activities that are likely to prevent a breach. 

For instance, understanding how to spot phishing attempts or tackle business email compromise from vendors would be a great start. Improved awareness will also help your employees understand the need for strong passwords and the use of multi-factor authentication. You should also consider setting up Privileged Access Management to understand and manage all the user accounts within your enterprise.

Update all systems promptly

Leaving your systems and applications running with outdated firmware or software essentially make your business vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches. Remaining protected will involve you taking steps like regularly installing security updates, upgrading to newer software or discarding obsolete systems. By installing updates promptly, you’d be patching up any known vulnerabilities and preventing zero-day exploits by hackers.

A quick look into the WannaCry ransomware of 2017 shows that the majority of victims could have easily avoided the cyberattack by either updating their operating system or abandoning an obsolete version of Windows.

Backup your data frequently

However hard you prepare, there’s always the chance that something may go wrong. From hardware failure to ransomware attacks, backing up your data can help you ensure that you never have to start from scratch after an incident. However, you should aim to create backups the right way. Creating backups without validating them may give you a false sense of security if you’re unable to retrieve them.

Check out our detailed backup recommendations for small businesses here.

Use Intrusion Detection and Prevention (IDS/IPS) systems

Intrusion detection/prevention systems are an essential cybersecurity component for small businesses in the digital age. They generally listen to your network for bad traffic or potential attacks and prevent your systems from communicating with bad threat actors. If you’re looking to take your small business cybersecurity a notch higher, this is one practice you should adopt.

From preventing malware attacks across your network to stopping trojans and even phishing, IDS/IPS generally stop malicious activity against your business by dropping or resetting connections.

Furthermore, you should consider setting up firewalls with IDS/IPS rather than ISP-provided routers. Home-grade routers are built to allow users to connect easily and do not generally offer any firewall protection or monitoring. However, a firewall with built-in IDS/IPS can monitor your traffic to prevent malicious activity.

Consider getting cyber insurance

If you’re wondering why we’re talking about insurance as a way of protecting your business from data breaches, don’t fret. Cyber insurance can be a vital tool in your SMB’s cybersecurity arsenal. With 60% of businesses (mostly SMBs) closing within six months of a data breach, cyber insurance can be the difference between going bust or surviving in the unfortunate event of an attack.

Cyber insurance aims to protect businesses from the consequences of cyberattacks and data breaches. Some of these consequences can include fines, compensation and loss of business. As the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve, you’ll need to understand the benefits of cyber insurance as well as its limitations for your business and industry.

Boost your vendor and endpoint security

As you probably already know, no business can operate in this digital age without relying on support from third parties or vendors. Third parties like cloud service or application providers are typically granted privileged access to your IT infrastructure to enable them to support you seamlessly. 

However, this constantly increases the risk of a cyberattack or data breach of your business. The danger here is that if there’s a cyber attack on any of these vendors, the hackers may be able to access your systems using the privileged access already granted.

Similarly, the rise of BYOD policies and culture across Canada ultimately means that your small business now has to deal with more data endpoints than ever. Without adequate endpoint security and management, you may be leaving your business vulnerable to data breaches and cyberattacks. The average cost of an endpoint cyberattack in 2019 was $9 million and zero-day attacks show no signs of slowing.

Why MSPs and MSSPs are essential for preventing and recovering from data breaches in the digital age

The costs associated with getting numerous disparate cybersecurity tools is usually a discouraging factor for Canadian SMBs. MSSPs essentially overcome this problem by offering specialized services that meet the very needs of small businesses. They also provide solutions capable of overcoming the typical challenges that businesses face today. Overall, MSSPs can help your small business by reducing and managing their cyber risks as well as offering recovery support in the event of a cyberattack or data breach.

The bottom line

With SMBs making up 98% of all businesses in Canada, it’s fair to say that they will continue to be attractive targets for cybercriminals. The relatively limited budgets SMBs allocate for cybersecurity also means that they may be falling short. However, hiring MSPs and MSSPs can help bypass this challenge. 

Contact us today to discover how our small business cybersecurity solutions can help you with preventing, detecting or responding to cyberattacks and data breaches.

The biggest data breaches in Canada and their impact on businesses

Data breaches in Canada

The digital landscape is evolving faster than anyone could have predicted and so are data breaches. As newer technologies continue to emerge, hackers have steadily improved their sophistication. From the Equifax breach to the Yahoo saga, you can easily find numerous cases of data breaches on the internet.

This article offers you insights into some of the biggest data breaches in Canada so far. You can also find out how these businesses were impacted over time. You should also expect some useful tips on how you can prevent data breaches in your small business.

Top 4 data breaches in Canada

Before delving into the top data breaches in Canada, you should understand the law surrounding the issue in general. While it was legal to avoid reporting data breaches in the past, everything changed in 2018. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) makes it compulsory for businesses to report breaches to the authorities.

Here are some of the top four data breaches in Canada and the impact it had on businesses.

Medicentres data breach

Founded in 1979, Medicentres Canada Inc is the largest group of clinics in the country. The company is trusted by millions of patients to provide reliable healthcare services. However, Medicentres disclosed in 2014 that some of their data had been exposed to cybercriminals. So how did this really happen?

In September 2013, a laptop belonging to a consultant who works with Medicentres was stolen. The laptop contained a database of 620,000 patients who had visited Medicentres clinics in Calgary and Edmonton. Patients were even more surprised that information about the breach only came to light about four months after in 2014.

Impact of the data breach on Medicentres

Years after the lost laptop and data breach, Medicentres continues to feel the impact of the incident. When some patients found out, a class-action lawsuit for $11 million was filed against the company. This case remained in the courts until July 2016 when a settlement was agreed upon. The courts decided that Medicentres should pay out just over $700,000 for credit repair services for those affected in 2016.

The deadline for claiming compensation from this settlement was November 2016. If you were affected by this breach, you’d be unable to make a new claim now. The damage to the healthcare provider’s reputation would remain at the forefront of patients’ minds for a long time.

Since this data breach, the government has made efforts to improve Canada’s health information act as well as its privacy law.

Desjardins Group’s credit unions’ data breach

You can generally consider the data breach against Desjardins as the biggest in Canada. The company was founded in 1900 and is the largest federation of credit unions in North America. The company announced that 4.2 million individual customers and 173,000 businesses were exposed in a data breach. This figure represented the credit union’s entire clientele base.

An employee unlawfully collected data from the company and leaked them to a third-party. When the data breach occurred, there was only one suspect – a former employee. Desjardins also confirmed that personal information like names, social insurance numbers, addresses and payment information was compromised in the breach.

The company claims that this wasn’t as a result of failure in their systems. Seeing that it was from an employee, we’ll let you be the judge.

Impact of the data breach on Desjardins Group

You’d have to be invincible to experience a data breach of this magnitude and not feel any impact. Since the breach, Desjardins has improved its identity protection and now offers all customers lifelong protection including access to Equifax. There’s also a class-action lawsuit in the works although it’s yet to be certified by a Judge. Certification by a Judge is a requirement before the case can proceed.

The increase in fraud lately has also been linked to this breach since the victims’ sensitive data were exposed. 

Lawmakers are yet to determine how to respond to this data breach. In response to the breach, some believe that more should be done and others claim that the group’s response so far has been satisfactory.

If you’re a Desjardins client, you can view the steps they’re taking to protect you and your data here. You can also find details on how you can access lifelong credit protection with Equifax there.

Capital One breach

Card services provider Capital One recently experienced a data breach that exposed sensitive information related to six million Canadians. The bank holding company disclosed the breach on July 30th, 2019 and noted that it includes one million social insurance numbers in Canada.

No login credentials were exposed during this breach. However, the kind of data compromised could be used to perpetrate havoc in the long term. The FBI subsequently caught the cybercriminal involved.

How did the data breach affect Capital One?

Apart from damage to reputation, the cost of managing the blowback from this incident would no doubt be heavy. For instance, all the customers involved have had to be notified since the breach occurred. The Card provider has also had to invest heavily in cybersecurity after the incident. 

Furthermore, there’s a class-action suit that was filed in Vancouver against Capital One. It’s still early days and the suit is yet to reach the settlement stage. If you’re a Capital One customer, you can check out all the facts related to this breach and what you can do to protect your data with them here.

TransUnion breach

Just like Equifax, TransUnion also recently experienced its own breach. The nature of the information compromised and the impact they could have on the victims’ lives in the long term are some of the reasons why this breach makes the list. TransUnion announced in October 2019 that an unauthorized party was able to access the credit information of around 37,000 Canadians.

The attacker used the login details of the Canadian Western Bank in accessing the data on TransUnion’s database. This is perhaps why you should consider stepping up your endpoint security efforts. To illustrate this, when Banks request your credit information from TransUnion or Equifax, they could potentially access your former addresses, social insurance number and even existing debt information. As a result, the type and amount of data exposed could vary greatly.

Impact of the data breach on TransUnion

While they claim the breach was not as a result of failure on the part of their systems, one can only wonder whether a firewall would have prevented the third-party from accessing the service even with genuine login credentials.

Although TransUnion continues to improve its security, there may still be some fines or penalties from the government or regulatory bodies. You can also expect their reputation to suffer greatly.

Overcoming data breaches in Canada with Abrisuite

If you own or run a small business, you’d agree that preventing data breaches is essential for your survival. With Abrisuite, you can expect cost-effective managed security services solutions that help protect your small business from data breaches. With or without an IT department, we can upgrade your security to enterprise-grade at a fraction of the cost.

Our ability to provide a security solution that includes endpoint protection and network monitoring easily sets us apart from others. Here’s an outline of some of the ways we can help you prevent data breaches in your small business.

  • Advanced firewall.
  • Intrusion detection and prevention services.
  • Endpoint protection via HIPS.
  • Security Operations Centre (SOC)
  • Network monitoring.
  • Anti-virus and Anti-malware. 

Closing thoughts

As you continue to guide your small business towards success, you’ll need to understand the importance of protecting your data. You’ll need to consciously aim to limit unauthorized exposure as well as understand the consequences of failing to do so. You’ll also need to recognize the value behind working with MSSPs to deliver a solution that’s custom-built specifically for you.

Why cybercrime is the new organized crime in Canada

Cybercrime is the new organized crime

One quick thought about organized crime and you’re likely to start thinking about the New York Mafia. This is no longer the case for businesses as cybercrime is rapidly overtaking conventional crime in reality. In the past, Canadian businesses typically sought after offices in the best neighbourhoods hoping it would keep criminals away. Back then, it was safe to leave your windows open all night and return the following day without any incidents.

This mindset overtime has forged an attitude that security isn’t a major concern. The business world has however changed rapidly and having such a mindset can be very costly nowadays. The business frontline has shifted online and so has the crime. Since the internet connects everyone together, cybercriminals can easily launch attacks at any business at will.

Regardless of origins, every type of crime eventually becomes organized and cybercrime is no different. The following shows how cybercrime against small businesses has shifted online and is now more organized and targeted than ever.

The impact of cybercrime on Canadian businesses in recent times.

In 2017, Canadian businesses officially spent around $14 billion in preventing, detecting and recovering from cybersecurity incidents. On average, businesses spent between $46,000 to over $900,000 depending on their size and nature of business. 

With 88% of Canadian businesses admitting that they experienced a data breach in 2019, the cybercrime challenge is huge. It’s fair to say its impact has been far-reaching. Although many of these breaches may have gone unreported, they haven’t gone unnoticed. They definitely influence your decisions and actions as a small business owner. For instance, 95% of Canadian businesses already have some form of basic cybersecurity protection in place. However, advanced measures like intrusion detection, firewalls, and even anti-malware are more prominent in larger organizations.

What does this really mean for your small business and how does cybercrime really affect you?

Without beating around, it now affects your small business in every single way. From how you secure your website to how you store data, there’s no limit to the influence that cybercrime has on your business policies. The overall consequence of the different breaches that have occurred in the past decade is that businesses now have to think about protecting their data and systems at every given moment.

The following are some cybersecurity stats you should be aware of as a small business owner in Canada.

  • 60% of small businesses will most likely shut down within 6 months of experiencing a cyber attack.
  • Only 13% of businesses have a written policy in place for managing and reporting cybersecurity incidents. However, organizations in the banking and transportation sectors averaged over 50%.
  • Only 10% of Canadian businesses that experienced a cyber attack went on to report to the Police.
  • Canadian businesses are already losing over $3 billion annually.
  • SMEs make up 98% of Canadian businesses.

How big is the cybersecurity challenge in Canada today?

The cybersecurity challenge is so huge that not even government institutions are left out. According to Accenture, the average cost of a cyber attack in Canada is just over $9 million. From elections and military operations to business email compromise, cybersecurity challenges can be felt in all corners. So much that many already believe it’s a bigger concern than even terrorism.

The increasing frequency of cyberattacks in Canada today consequently means that you or your CISO will need to do more. You’ll need to do more to proactively protect the business from potential attacks. As more businesses continue to go digital, so will cybercriminals who continue to find ways to breach your data.

Top cybersecurity threats affecting Canadian businesses

Here are the top cyber threats that are most likely to affect your Canadian business in 2020. 

Malware and Ransomware

Ransomware attacks are widely considered as the biggest cyber threat facing businesses today. Attackers would usually use software or malware to prevent victims from accessing the files on their systems. Since the WannaCry attacks of 2017 that affected businesses worldwide, there’s hardly any week without new attacks. 

In November 2019 for instance, the Nunavut government in Canada experienced a ransomware attack. Its security systems were not trained to detect hacks like this, forcing them to shut down parts of their network. In 2019, ransomware attacks reportedly resulted in damages of over $11 billion.

DDoS attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are also very common nowadays. It can be especially problematic without the right tools and measures. DDoS attackers typically flood their victims’ websites or services with so much traffic until it becomes overwhelmed and crashes. Alternatively, cybercriminals may also use this type of attack to redirect your web visitors to other websites.

Endpoint attacks

As more businesses move to the cloud, they’ll need to grand third-parties privileged access. These additional data endpoints, however, come with associated risks. A breach in any of their systems will most likely leave your data exposed without the right tools in place. An example of this is the Marriot attack which was the result of a booking system breach. 

With so many businesses shutting down because of ransomware attacks, it’s important to understand the true extent of their impact. For instance, The Heritage Company in the US had to shut down in December 2019. The business had failed to sufficiently respond to a ransomware attack it experienced two months earlier. This closure meant that around 300 staff were suddenly without a job.

Business email compromise fraud

If you’re a Canadian business decision-maker, you can automatically expect that you’re a target for business email compromise fraud. This threat relies on gaining unauthorized access to a business email and intercepting financial transaction communications. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), businesses globally (including Canada) lose over $5 billion to this fraud.

One example to remember is the City of Burlington which fell victim after hackers posing as a trusted vendor sent new payment instructions. The City had already sent over $500,000 before it realized it was a scam.

Phishing attacks are becoming more targeted

Phishing remains the cheapest method for compromising business credentials and is the topmost cyberattack vector for hackers. It typically appears as an email with links that either deliver malware to a victim’s computer or network. Hackers can also use phishing attacks to lure you into giving them your credentials.

5 reasons why you need a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) to tackle cybercrime

With 43% of cyber attacks now aimed at small businesses, you should need no further incentives to protect your business. Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) offer unparalleled benefits when it comes to securing your IT infrastructure from cybercriminals. The following highlights the top five reasons why you need an MSSP for your small business.

Cost savings

The costs associated with deploying the relevant technologies and tools required for combatting cybercrime can quickly add up especially for small businesses. However, MSSPs ensure that you do not have to break the bank by getting all these tools on your own. Similarly, hiring a complete IT team may be unthinkable for a business that’s just starting out but MSSPs ensure that you can remain protected regardless of your size or budget.

Unrivalled expertise

The exposure that comes with providing protection for a wide range of clients means that you will ultimately benefit more from using MSSPs than an in-house IT team. Nevertheless, MSSPs are also known for being an extension of your IT team so if you have one already, they can seamlessly work closely together.

Reliable support and training

From providing technical support to organizing training for your staff or in-house IT department, MSSPs can be at your beck and call when you need them.

Improved cybersecurity insights

As your business continues to generate relevant data about its security, MSSPs can help you use SIEM to analyze the data gathered from a single point of view.

Customized security solutions

Rather than getting numerous disparate cybersecurity tools that may or may not be fully relevant to your enterprise, MSSPs generally ensure that you get a fully customized security solution that meets your specific security needs.

What’s the Future of Cybercrime?

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, so will hacker sophistication. You can expect that hackers will continue to adapt to newer technologies or innovations as they come up. For instance, as the adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence become more universal, you can expect a shift. You should also fully expect cybercriminals to swiftly adapt and become even more organized and targeted in their approach.

Closing thoughts

As cybercrime continues to be even more organized, SMEs and all businesses at large must respond decisively. A good start is by being preemptive and calculative in your approach towards preventing, detecting and responding to these threats. Over the past decade, MSSPs have proven to be reliable allies for Canadian SMEs in the fight against cybercrime. Contact Abrisuite today to experience how our suite of solutions can help your business stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.