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The 5 most common network security threats and how to avoid them

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Smaller organisations haven’t historically been the target of network security threats, but in the last year, there has been a huge rise in the number of small firms reporting a security breach. According to the latest Government Security Breaches Survey, 74% of small organisations reported a security breach in the last year, an increase from the 2013 and 2014 survey.

Although threats to networking security can vary from business to business, one thing they have in common is they can all be prevented. Research by Symantec found that 82% of data that was either lost or stolen could have been prevented if the business has a simple cyber security plan in place.

Here are five of the most common network security threats to your business and how you can avoid them:

Malicious code

Malicious code is possibly one of the biggest network security threats to your business, due to its ability to secretly install on computers and cause system vulnerabilities such as deleted files and stolen passwords. According to Kaspersky Lab, not all antivirus protection can block this type of network security threat, meaning hackers can steal customer and employee information to gain financially.

Not to be confused with malware, or malicious software, malicious code includes website scripts that enables malware to be uploaded onto networking systems and can cause damaging effects such as computer viruses, worms and Trojan horses. Installing anti-virus programs and anti-spyware programmes on all computers in your business can prevent this from jeopardising your network security, but perhaps more importantly, you should make sure they are all up to date.

Unsecured wireless access points

Unless your business has remained in the dark ages, it’s likely you and your employees use wireless devices daily. However, the ease of using wireless networking also increases the security risk to your network. Intruders can usually only connect to your network if they are physically present, but with wireless networks, they can access your networking system by simply being in range of your networks radio signals.

This means your network can be accessed by harmless freeloaders who are simply after free internet, but also more malicious intruders such as eavesdroppers, who listen to an exchange of packets that occur when a legitimate wireless network user joins the network.

If your network security isn’t set up properly, these packets can allow eavesdroppers to determine user logins and passwords, files that are opened on the server and even credit card details. To prevent this from happening, ensure all default passwords are changed and encrypt your wireless network to prevent anyone who might be able monitor your traffic.

Spear Phishing

Many businesses fall for spear phishing attacks, where an email appears genuine to all employees at an organisation. Yet these emails have in fact been spoofed, and can give access to a company’s entire computer system, making it a major network security threat. According to the latest statistics from Symantec, more than half (52.4 per cent) of spear phishing attacks carried out in December last year were again small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

It’s important for all employees to look out for any warning signs of suspicious emails and only respond to emails that ask for sensitive information over the phone or face-to-face.

Smartphones & Tablets

A stolen laptop or smartphone is one of the biggest networking security threats, due to the amount of personal and business data that is stored on the device. Not to mention the costs to business reputation if you must contact customers because their financial data may have been stolen. By ensuring all devices are configured with minimum access to information and security controls are in place, it can reduce the potential costs and threats.

USB and external devices

In 2014, researchers at Security Research Labs found that USBs and other external devices can be reprogrammed to steal the contents of any PC and can even pretend to be a network card and change a computer’s domain name to secretly redirect your traffic. Although there isn’t much that can be done to prevent this from becoming a real networking security threat, by keeping track of what devices your USB has been used on and asking employees to be careful of their actions can help.

Protecting your business’s network can be tricky when there are so many networking security threats, but looking out for all the above can make sure these threats are kept to a minimum and ensure your network is protected against any damaging attacks.

 

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Tags: Security Transformation, Technology