7 Most Common Cyber-Attacks on Australian Businesses

From malware to phishing scams, cybercriminals are always upping their game to exploit weaknesses and snatch sensitive data. As society continues to shift towards hybrid work models, this change is only opening more avenues for criminals to exploit. 

The first step for businesses to protect their data, clients, and employees is to understand the most common threats, and how they function.

1. Phishing Attacks

A common cyber threat is phishing emails. These emails will pretend to be from legitimate sources, to trick their victims into clicking links or giving away sensitive information. As AI software continues to develop, phishing attempts will only become more convincing.

To avoid falling victim to this scam, it is advisable to train team members to spot them. Staff should check the address associated with any email they receive – particularly those claiming to be from employers – before responding. Businesses must also clarify what will and won’t be sent in emails, to assist staff in detecting potential security threats.

2. Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that holds company data hostage until a payment is made. This is accomplished by locking or encrypting the data. It’s surprisingly effective – a report by Mcgrathicnol shows that last year, 73% of Australian businesses hit by ransomware attacks decided to pay the ransom. This can have a long-lasting financial impact, and potentially even cause severe legal issues as the Australian government does not support the payment of such ransoms. 

To protect themselves, it is important to regularly back up data, and install up-to-date security software.

3. Malware

Malware is an umbrella term for malicious software that is designed to harm your devices. It can be difficult to detect before it has already been downloaded, because it disguises itself as legitimate software. Malware can harm business operations in many ways. One example is spyware, which is used to discreetly obtain information from devices that can be used for further attacks. Another is worms, which are capable of self-replication and can quickly infect every computer on a network.

Protecting your systems with antivirus software is a good first step to prevent malware attacks, but not enough on its own. Automated updates can prevent cybercriminals from taking advantage of outdated software. Advanced access controls can also be used to restrict software installations, which can reduce the risk of human error.

4. DDoS Attacks

A DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack targets your website by flooding the servers. This prevents legitimate users from being able to interact with the website, which can cause serious financial harm. 

A web application firewall can be used to filter website traffic. Minimising the available attack surface area also makes it more difficult for DDoS attacks to succeed.

5. Internal Threats

Cyber-attacks can come from internal sources as well as external. Company employees are given information and access to highly critical business functions. This means it is possible for them to – intentionally or unintentionally – let cybercriminals in. 

Access controls can be implemented to prevent security breaches. Thorough training of all staff on cybersecurity will assist in this endeavour. It is also important to keep a detailed record of who has access to which parts of the company, so that if a breach occurs the source can be easily traced.

6. Trojans

A Trojan is a type of malware designed to look like a legitimate software download. Cybercriminals can get the malware onto company devices in many ways, after which they can use it to launch further attacks. A common tactic is to sneak in through the back door, using a company’s own suppliers.In this way, even trusted vendors can inadvertently become conduits for cyber threats. Phishing emails can also be used to accomplish this. 

To avoid Trojans, businesses must be sure to research vendors and monitor any new software installations closely.

7. Password Attacks

A password is one of the most well-known ways a cybercriminal can cause harm, typically through data breaches, identity theft, or financial loss. These attacks can take many forms, including the commonly-used “brute force” method – where a cybercriminal uses an automated system to run every possible combination of letters and numbers until they find the correct password. Phishing scams, as discussed above, can also be used to obtain passwords, which can then be used in password attacks.

Using a strong, difficult password can decrease the likelihood of a successful brute force attack. Multi-factor authentication is another good measure to implement. Utilise a strict set of rules regarding passwords, and encourage staff to use password management tools to prevent them from resorting to insecure practices.

Get Advice from Security Experts

Each of the cyber-attacks listed above can present a significant problem to daily operations. In light of advancing technologies, it is more important than ever to ensure your business and clients are protected. 

Not sure where to start? The security experts at Pronet are committed to keeping you and your business safe, with customised security solutions. Get in touch with our support services for a free cyber security risk assessment, and we can work together to design your bespoke cyber defence plan.

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