Why Businesses Must Protect Themselves From Cyber Threats and Cyber Warfare ?
In this tightly integrated and interconnected 24/7 world where businesses operate at all times and keep their IT (Information Technology) enabled processes and systems running all the time, it is important for such businesses to protect themselves against cyber threats and cyber warfare.
By definition, cyber threats refer to the risks arising from hacking and penetration of the IT systems of firms and such threats or risks can be both from malicious insiders as well as external agencies and hackers with criminal intent. In addition, cyber threats also refer to the risks from data theft and data loss due to the IT systems being compromised.
Sources of Cyber Threats
Indeed, there are any number of such risks and threats especially from those with malicious intent. For instance, disgruntled employees might use their access to the IT systems to steal confidential information and client data and sell such data or records to outsiders for money.
In addition, some insider employees with a view of engaging in cyber espionage wherein though they are working in a specific firm, they steal data from that firm for the benefit of its competitors and rivals.
Apart from this, cyber threats can also be due to laxity and complacency on the part of employees who write down their passwords on paper without any thought to whether they can be stolen.
This is then taken advantage of by other employees for whom stealing passwords becomes easier since such passwords have been written down on paper and hence, they are unprotected.
Turning to the cyber threats from external agencies and hackers, it is indeed the case that cyber criminals and cyber spies thrive on stealing confidential information and client data which can be used for any number of purposes ranging from causing embarrassment to the firms that have been hacked, to selling such information to other firms for money, and to the more sinister wherein personal data and credit card information are stolen and then used to blackmail the individuals and firms to whom such data belongs.
Cyber Threats are the Biggest Risks to Businesses in the 21st Century
Indeed, it can be said that among the greatest risks to businesses in the 21st century is the risk from cyber threats and cyber warfare and such risks can only be ignored at their peril.
The point to be noted here that businesses have always faced some sort of threats arising out of their strategic and operational aspects and while in earlier decades, it was the risk from the physical world, in the digital economy of the present times, it is the threat from the virtual world.
The contention here is that despite the change in operation from physical to virtual, human nature remains the same and hence, there are always threats from the basic human tendency of wanting to profit from dubious means.
Having said that, it is not the case that businesses must resign themselves to the inevitability of such risks. On the other hand, they must actively guard against such threats and protect their IT systems and their confidential information from malicious hackers and insiders.
Ways and Means of Protecting Against Cyber Threats
This can be done by building firewalls, monitoring and surveillance of online behaviour of their employees, restricting access to employees on a need to know and need to share basis, and taking the help of specialized cyber intelligence firms on ways and means to bolster the defences of their IT infrastructure.
Firewalls can prevent unauthorized access to the IT systems from external agencies, and it can also ensure that viruses and hackers do not gain access to the IT systems.
In addition, monitoring the online activity of employees can ensure that data being uploaded and downloaded from the internet is tracked and in case, a suspicious behaviour is detected, such threats can be taken care of by warning the employee or firing him or her. Indeed, research shows that in 80% of the cases involving cyber hacking, insiders are the root cause either by leaking information to outsiders or engaging in data theft themselves.
Apart from this, businesses can also take the help of specialized agencies dealing with cyber intelligence wherein such agencies conduct IT audits to determine vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the IT infrastructure and then, suggest suitable measures to protect such vulnerabilities. Indeed, firms such as Gartner, Symantec, VeriSign, and Stratfor are known to provide such services wherein they use their specialized knowledge and wide range of expertise as well as deep experience in advising firms on how to protect their data.
Cyber Threats can be Ignored by Businesses at their own Peril
There is absolutely no case for businesses for not protecting themselves. Indeed, firms operating in the financial services and other knowledge economy sectors deal with data and information for their sustenance and considering that their business is built around knowledge, there is no reason for them not to protect such knowledge. In addition, if they lose client data and client information, they are liable for compensation and a punitive action wherein they have to take on monetary losses to pay damages to their clients. In addition, they would also be losing their reputation in the process which can cause nonmonetary losses. Moreover, regulators are also insisting that businesses protect themselves from cyber warfare since data loss and data theft can result in losses to society as well as other members of the public.
In conclusion, protecting themselves against cyber threats is no longer a luxury for the businesses but rather, a necessity and a strategic and operational imperative that can be ignored only if they are willing to go out of business.
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