Companies affected by ransomware, phishing and hacking face fallout

We hear about cybercrime’s impact on business almost daily in the news, but what is the real impact on companies affected by ransomware, phishing and hacking? In truth, it can be devastating.  It can range from massive loss of data to paying a huge ransom, to a loss of your company’s valuable reputation.

The threat of cybercrime is very real, and it’s happening to companies of all sizes.

Spear Phishing: A Case Study

For one company in the Midwest, it all started with an email.

“An individual in the finance department of an organization was ‘spear phished’” explains Shannon Mayberry, IT Security Manager for EO Johnson Business Technologies.  Spear phishing is the cybercrime of sending fraudulent emails that look like they’re from a trusted source, to gather passwords and other confidential info. “And their password was somehow obtained, most likely through an O-365 (Microsoft Office 365) portal that was hosted somewhere else.”

But what the hackers did next was astounding, even to the cybersecurity experts at EO Johnson Business Technologies.

“Evidently the perpetrators sat silently, which you don’t see a lot” says Mayberry.  “And they watched for a week or more, collecting info about other individuals in the organization and their business practices.”

These sophisticated cybercriminals also used a technique called “typosquatting.”  Typosquatting is where a hacker will create an imposter business domain that contains a typo, typically one that is hard to detect if you’re not carefully paying attention (an example: linkdin.com as opposed to linkedin.com).  In this particular case, the perpetrators developed a domain so similar to the correct one, it had gone unnoticed.  They were then able to use this domain to start sending out emails that would look at first glance like they came from the breached company.

After gaining entry to the company network and gathering the important information the cybercriminals needed, they notified one of the company’s clients that their bank had change and to pay their next invoice via wire to a new bank account, an account controlled by the hackers in a foreign bank. 

The request was so realistic, so well-informed, so calculated, the business fell for it.

“The cybercriminals formulated a plan to go above and beyond your typical, scripted phishing attempt,” says Mayberry.  “It was particularly damaging because they were able to compromise someone in a position of authority in the finance department.”

The cost of cybercrime’s impact on business

What’s at stake is more than money, though in the case study above, the business wired an amount totaling seven figures.  It’s also an issue of user disruption because of the amount of cleanup needed by the company after the breach.

But more than that, is the fallout after the fact.  Reputation loss can have immeasurable consequences, lasting for years.  Unfortunately, some businesses learn this the hard way when they’re not practicing safe cybersecurity.

The risk of cybercrime to small and medium-sized businesses

Many business leaders feel like they’re safe from being a target as long as they aren’t a large company.  But the truth is, small to medium-sized companies face these very real risks every day, and are often exactly what hackers are looking for.

Why are small to medium-sized companies a target? Because they typically don’t have the robust IT department and protection technology that large companies have.  And they feel confident that they are flying below the radar of hackers and other cybercriminals—but the opposite is true.

“Fortune 500 companies have robust cybersecurity programs.  They have people watching for this on a daily basis,” explains Mayberry.  “So, even though the rate of return is higher, hackers prefer these smaller companies who may not be practicing ideal cybersecurity programs, including employee awareness training.  It’s easy to get at them.  They don’t have those robust security programs in place.  The rate of return isn’t as great for the hackers, but it’s easier to get at the results.”

With our example company in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that Mayberry says phishing is the number one cybercrime issue these days.

Preventing cyberattacks with cybersecurity and good cyber hygiene

If companies affected by ransomware, phishing and hacking could tell you one thing, it would be that prevention is key.  That prevention, according to Mayberry, should include multi-factor authentication, including with Microsoft Office 365, strong password policies, security awareness training, and an overall security-focused approach to business.  Security incident and event management software (SIEM) can help identify, watch, analyze and investigate security events, and just keep an eye on the IT environment.

“This day and age, everyone needs to embrace cybersecurity and make it part of their day job, make it part of your business culture,” says Mayberry.  “It needs to be in order for your business to be as safe as it can be.”

Cybercrime’s impact on business is real, and area companies are affected by ransomware and becoming victims of hackers every day.  To learn more about how the cybersecurity experts at EO Johnson Business Technologies can protect your data, your clients and your business, contact us.

 

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