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How likely is my business to be hacked?

I think the more relevant question is: when is my business going to be hacked?

What do we mean by hacking – well the breaking into your business network and stealing business data and information, usually by covert and undetectable means, from inside and out.

Cisco’s CEO John Chambers said “There is no data center or network in the world that hasn’t been hacked. If you watched the number of attacks, they’re going up exponentially this year, this year’s going to be much worse than last year,” “The average attack, you get 90 percent of the data you want in like nine hours, and yet most of the companies don’t find out for three to four months,” he said.

Why would anybody want your data you might say? Do you store customer details, credit card information, have industry specific information that might have intellectual property value, or hold confidential client information? Or you might get compromised just because they can.

So what can you do? Well you’ll be surprised how weak security can be within organisations. I used to work with a guy many years ago who could guess passwords, he just had that flair. The quickest I saw him do it was 3 attempts. He would sit at the desk, have a look around, and wouldn’t take him long to work out who you were, remember your children, the car you drove, pets names and so forth, before he knew the best place to start and where to look. Combine that skill with some serious automation software and you have a crack set of tools to break into any network.

Basic security does not have to be difficult. Regular password changes (every 30 days or so) – the more complex and irrelevant the better. For businesses it makes sense to deploy a hardware based commercial grade firewall product, to block and alert to attempts to access your network and servers. If you store data within an active directory structure or equivalent, lock down folder structures, not leaving this just open to everybody because it works better that way, but make sure sensitive data and databases are locked down to tight specific groups or individuals. Deploy network policies which stop remote access and non-essential admin functions to critical devices. Control and allow access on a need only basis. In some cases physically separate networks.

Think of it this way: If someone was to physically brake into your office to steal documents from a filing cabinet, how would you prevent it, and slow them down? Locks on the front door, locks on office doors, alarms, bars on windows etc. How would you buy yourself time until the intruder was detected? The same principle applies to data security. Put in place blocks, locks and alarms to slow the intruder down, and keep the unintentional opportunist out altogether.

Have a plan – know what data is critical and risk access the impact of it being stolen on your reputation and future business clients. In some cases businesses have been unrecoverable. Then treat that data as if your business depends on it.

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