Cybercrime And Why Data Is The New Gold
Data has become a precious commodity, more so than even precious metals. The more data a business holds on its customers and clients means, the more power it wields over them. Data is also easy to steal and manipulate; it can be stolen, corrupted, or lost due to mismanagement and mishandling. When that happens, you’re opening up your business – and your clients – to cybercrimes like identity theft and reputational damage, which could lead to loss of future revenues as well as legal action from those who’ve been wronged. It’s not just businesses either; governments hold incredible amounts of data about their citizens (voter registration, for example), making them big targets.
Getting rid of paper records is not enough. Just because you don’t have paper on-site or in your possession doesn’t mean it isn’t vulnerable to cybercrimes or being lost/stolen. You need to ensure that every database, application, cloud storage site, and internet connection is secure with up-to-date firewalls and passwords. Let’s look at the definition of cybersecurity before we go any further.
What is Cybersecurity?
The word ‘cyber’ is a neologism, which means that it was formed recently – this one around the 1940s – and comes from combining ‘cybernetics’ (the study of control systems) and ‘terrorism.’ It refers to both protecting computers against malicious access as well as using computers to carry out malicious activities against a person or organization.
Cybersecurity protects computer networks, software programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. There are several different types of cybercrime – listed below – that include everything from identity theft to terrorism and espionage. To stay secure online, you need to have an up-to-date firewall installed and solid passwords for all accounts both on your local machine and those accessed over the internet.
What is Data?
To understand cybersecurity and why it’s so crucial for businesses, we first need to look at what data is and understand a byte. A byte is a sequence of bits used to store information, such as a letter or number. Each byte is made up of 8 bits, and approximately 1000 bytes make up 1 kilobyte (KB), 1000 KBs make up a megabyte (MB), and so on.
If we look at the case of government data, voter registration records might be just under 100Kb, with tax returns around 2-3 MB. Each record in your business’s database might be around 10-100KB, while the data itself, on the whole, can be pretty significant. Remember, data doesn’t have to refer to numbers and letters either; it includes audio and video.
When it comes to financial data, each transaction made is usually at least 1KB, so multiply that by the number of transactions you have daily, and you’ll get an idea of how extensive your transactional database might be. This also doesn’t just include money, though; if any information about a purchase is stored, it’s considered part of the company’s transactional database. For example, your customer support team might have reported all the problems customers have with particular products. If this is being stored in a spreadsheet along with their contact info, that’s transactional data.
What are Cybercrimes?
Data is precious not only for businesses but for hackers too. In an era where everything from our mobile phones to refrigerators is connected to the internet, we’re giving more opportunities for people with ill intent to steal or manipulate the data we hold.
There are several different types of cybercrime:
Hacking: Hacking is the act of gaining unauthorized access to devices or networks to retrieve sensitive information. A common type of hacking known as ransomware occurs over email by tricking people into opening an attachment that encrypts their files and demands payment for them to be unlocked. This often spreads through phishing emails impersonating banks and other financial institutions.
Financial Fraud: identity theft and phishing (where people attempt to acquire sensitive information such as login details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in electronic communication) are the most common cybercrimes at the moment.
Phishing: This is a method used by hackers that involves sending fake emails that appear legitimate to gather passwords or credit card information. Phishing can often take place over email, social media, or phone calls.
Data breaches: This refers to any security breach which leads to cybercriminals gaining access to an individual’s personal information. If the data breached include credit card numbers or social security numbers, it becomes a severe issue and can lead to negative consequences such as identity theft.
Identity theft: This is another common cybercrime that involves stealing someone’s personal information (name, address, social security number, etc.) to access bank accounts or even file fraudulent tax returns. In recent years, identity theft has been on the rise, with increasing quantities of data being stored online.
Intellectual property theft: Sharing content without permission, for example, downloading copyrighted songs or films without paying for them.
Credit card fraud: The unfortunate incident where somebody might use your card to make purchases.
Cyberbullying: This happens when somebody uses the internet to intimidate another person either for their enjoyment or because they have been paid to do so. This can be through blogging sites like Tumblr and Twitter, forums and websites dedicated to bullying, WhatsApp groups, etc. It can even come from fellow students in a school who have access to one of these devices if you are attending an online course, for example.
Cyberterrorism: This type of cybercrime is designed to create panic and fear and cause material damage by disrupting the ordinary course of business with a threat or attack. This is when information technology systems are attacked to coerce or intimidate a government or an organization to achieve political, religious, or ideological goals. The most common example of this is hacking into another country’s military weapons systems and stealing classified data about their defense strategies. One example of this might include an individual or group hacking into a power station’s control room with the intent of causing a massive explosion – this was actually how the movie Die Hard 4 started!
Cyberwarfare: This is the use of computer networks for sabotage purposes during military operations. In recent years, the US has been accused of attacks against Iran to damage its nuclear infrastructure using a virus called Stuxnet. Cyberwarfare is a growing threat against businesses because hackers can even create viruses specifically designed to destroy industrial control systems used by power plants and so on.
Financial Impact of Cybercrime
Cybercrime is a significant issue for businesses of all shapes and sizes. In 2015, cybercrimes cost the US more than $15 million, with over 40% of large corporations reporting some data breach. And while it is estimated that ransomware costs around $1 billion to businesses worldwide in 2022 alone, this number does not include loss in productivity (to research and deal with such an attack) nor the operational costs incurred when dealing with the aftermath of such attacks. It’s also worth noting that small businesses are particularly vulnerable. The Ponemon Institute has found that nearly half (46%) of small businesses reported experiencing a cyberattack in 2013, and 50% had customer records stolen as a result.
What are Reputational Risks?
Reputational risks are the likelihood that your company will be perceived as untrustworthy by customers, partners, and investors if it does not take action against cybercrime in its system. For example, breaches in cybersecurity can lead to sensitive customer details ending up on dark web marketplaces where anybody could access them. If one of your customers finds out that you have allowed their personal information to become available to other people, they could then decide to take their business elsewhere. This is also referred to as ‘reputational damage .’ You must work with a reputable IT security company to ensure this doesn’t happen.
What is Reputational Damage?
Whenever a significant cyberattack occurs, it is bound to impact the reputation of the companies involved. This can be anything from loss of data and money to brand damage or even legal action. Cybercrime damages the reputation of companies, especially those dealing with sensitive information such as financial institutions, which could lose customer trust and confidence should they fall victim to hacking or other cybercrimes. The reputational damage that follows such events can often last for years after the initial attack.
What recourse do I have?
Once data has been stolen, it isn’t straightforward for businesses to know precisely what’s happened. Report it to the authorities immediately. To involve a private investigator is also an option. The best way to avoid this is by taking preventative measures against cybercrime. These measures should include thorough training for employees to spot suspicious emails or phone calls claiming they are from trusted organizations/individuals. Scammers often pose as representatives from banks to obtain passwords, so it’s essential to educate staff on spotting these types of attacks. Staff should be trained never to provide their login details to third parties and always check the sender’s email address before hitting send.
Cybercrime is a growing threat for businesses of all sizes. Still, smaller firms are particularly vulnerable due to the lack of resources (in terms of time and money) that larger companies have. These types of organizations should have cyber-attack response plans in place just as they do other emergency procedures. Take preventative measures against potential attacks, including running virus checks regularly, using secure passwords, and ensuring all staff receive adequate training.
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