Cybersecurity Tips: How to Keep Your Clients’ Data Out of the Wrong Hands

Cybersecurity office performing their job
May 6, 2024 |
Article | 5 min
| Business Insights

Data is under siege. There are over 2,200 different cyber attacks each day, which breaks down to one attack every 39 seconds. With such high volume, it’s no wonder that estimated cybercrime costs are expected to eclipse $10.5 trillion worldwide in 2025.

From phishing scams and ransomware to insider threats and weak passwords, fraudsters leverage organizations’ vulnerabilities to attack at just the right time. How can you keep criminals in check while protecting your clients’ data? Cybercriminals are getting smarter by the minute. Thankfully, with these cybersecurity tips, you can stay one step ahead.

Common Business Cybersecurity Threats

By leaning on proven cybersecurity tips and best practices, business owners can avoid becoming another statistic. Let’s unpack some of the common scams and unpack their tell-tale signs and discuss how you can prevent them.

Phishing Attacks

In the US alone, over 300,000 people fell victim to phishing scams in 2022, losing roughly $52 million in the process and costs are only going up. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million—up 15% since 2020.

Phishing scams are among the most common types of cybercrime, with over 500 million attacks reported in 2022. They involve a scammer who’s posing as someone you might know and trust. You’ll get a business email or a text message that looks legitimate but is actually full of red flags.

Thankfully, most phishing scams are easy to spot. They are usually replete with awkward wording, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors that most professionals wouldn’t make.

But these bad actors are becoming more sophisticated, thus everyone within your network must remain diligent and educated to protect your digital environment. Here are some key things to lookout for:

  • Unknown sender addresses, or slight discrepancies in a familiar-looking address
  • Sense of urgency
  • Unconventional means of payment, such as cryptocurrency or gift cards
  • Changes made to payment instructions such as new bank accounts 
  • Links to pages asking for private information such as account numbers or Social Security numbers

If there’s ever a doubt, always verify the email by calling the sender via a trusted phone number not included in the questionable email. Also, consider sending a separate message to an address you know is legitimate.

Protecting clients’ financial information is the priority. Losing data to scammers can cause financial loss for your clients and your business while also severely tarnishing your business reputation.

Ransomware Incidents

In 2021, 37% of all businesses fell victim to ransomware attacks. They lost a combined $20 billion, plus an additional $2 million each in recovery expenses. 

Ransomware attacks occur when a cybercriminal takes your data hostage. They wiggle their way into your system, either through a preemptive phishing scam or someone on the inside. From there, attackers install ransomware—a type of malware—on your system that encrypts your data and throws away the key. The scammer is the only person with a duplicate key, and they won’t give it back unless you pay the ransom.

Thankfully, the same tips for boosting your cybersecurity systems may prevent you from falling victim to ransomware attacks. For example, educating and training your staff on the potential red flags of phishing scams may deter would-be scammers.

Data back-ups are also critical to foiling ransomware attacks. Of all the attacks in 2021, 57% of businesses were able to recover their data thanks to backups. That means they didn’t have to pay the ransom, and they didn’t lose any data.

Insider Threats

With so many outside threats, many business leaders fail to inspect their own ranks. There could be someone inside your organization opening the door to cybercriminals. Many will do it unintentionally; others are more malicious.

Consider the fact that over 300 million people are working remotely. They’re accessing, sharing, creating, and storing data on networks outside of your control. All it takes is one employee connecting to public WiFi for a client’s data to be exposed.

To combat insider threats, ensure that employees can only access the information necessary to complete their jobs. Those with more permissions will require more scrutiny.

Regarding intentional threats, a good mole will be hard to spot on the surface. That’s why you must keep up with regular compliance checks and lean on a dedicated cybersecurity team. Conduct regular risk assessments and security awareness training for all staff members.

Weak Passwords and Authentication

Weak passwords are more common than you may think. According to research from CyberNews, the most common password in 2023 was 123456. The word “password” was the fourth most commonly used password globally.

Nowadays, individuals have so many password-protected accounts that it’s impossible to remember them all. So, to avoid the endless “password reset” loop, we use easy-to-remember passwords across multiple platforms or simply the same password for everything. But this is where problems can emerge, especially when those passwords are shared between work-related and personal accounts.

A 2021 report found that 77% of employees at the world’s top financial institutions used the same passwords between their personal and work accounts. Those passwords are often easy to guess because they’re easy for the person to remember. It might include a birthday, a pet’s name, or a significant other—all information that is easily available via their social media.

Tips for improving cybersecurity through passwords involve the implementation of company-wide password policies and password manager tools. For example, you might set a rule that all passwords must:

  • Be at least 16 characters long
  • Include uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Feature at least one special character

You may also consider implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA), a multi-step account login process that requires additional credentials to access. This allows you to increase security and reduce the risk of data breaches.

Cybersecurity Is a Collaborative Effort

The strategies mentioned above can all help you mitigate cybercrime risks, but above all, communication with stakeholders is key.

Work closely with your IT department to better manage cybersecurity risks. You may also consider working with a cybersecurity consultant along with your internal IT team, depending on the size of your organization. They’ll be able to stress-test your systems and identify risks before threats happen—as they say, practice makes perfect. Regular cybersecurity audits can ensure your systems are working and staff members are following established guidelines.

At the same time, ensure that third-party users can’t accidentally (or intentionally) leak your data by restricting access to sensitive information. You might also leverage one-time passwords to prevent them from getting back in without your knowledge.

In addition to IT, you might consider checking in with your trusted financial partners for extra assistance. Banking partners can provide insight into what they are seeing across the financial fraud landscape as these criminals continue to adjust their tactics. As a trusted partner, they can help identify potential vulnerabilities in how your organization is managing your clients’ financial data. While also helping you set systems and procedures in place that will better protect your organization. Connect with a banker at Dubuque Bank & Trust, a division of HTLF Bank today!

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