When it comes to cybersecurity, free and easy doesn’t cut it

Understanding cybersecurity risks for businesses

By Mark HoffmannKENOSHA.COM

A leader in the IT industry for nearly three decades, Hoffmann has helped small and large businesses take advantage of technology to better serve their customers and employees. Hoffmann is owner of CMIT Solutions of SE Wisconsin.

In today’s digital world, every business relies on mission-critical devices and applications to conduct day-to-day operations and enhance productivity. However, this reliance can lead to the risk of cybersecurity threats that can compromise sensitive data and disrupt business operations.  

This risk is particularly heightened when devices used in the office, on the road, or at home are unmanaged. That means a computer, smartphone, or other device is used to connect to a business network or transmit sensitive data—even though it’s not secured by a company’s overall cybersecurity protection.

Take routers, for example. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that a hacking team funded by the Russian government was caught installing malware on more than 1,000 unsecured home and business routers by hacking into the device using its default password. 

Companies that promote a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy—allowing workers to use personal laptops or mobile devices for work purposes—also risk exposing their networks to significant attacks. Microsoft’s Digital Defense Report 2023 revealed that 80-90% of ransomware infections in 2022 originated with unmanaged devices. 

Free file-sharing software and authenticator tools can also pose significant risks—particularly for businesses operating in sensitive industries like finance, legal, and healthcare. Consumer-grade applications don’t offer the kind of security that companies need to protect information. Viruses and encryption attacks can lock down files stored in Google Drive or Dropbox, while the theft of one password from an unprotected sign-on app can threaten entire systems if additional cybersecurity measures aren’t in place. 

What can you do to keep your business safe?

CMIT Solutions has extensive experience protecting businesses across North America in every industry vertical. Below, we’ll dive deeper into the dangers of unprotected devices, the cybersecurity risks associated with using free applications for mission-critical functions, and the steps you can take to protect yourself from digital threats. 

  • Unprotected devices leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks. When computers, smartphones, tablets, routers, printers, and hard drives operate outside of a company’s cybersecurity circle, they become prime targets for hackers looking for easy entry to infiltrate business networks. Without adequate security measures in place, these devices are vulnerable to malware, ransomware, and other malicious software that can wreak havoc on a company’s digital infrastructure.
    • One of the most common entry points for cyberattacks is outdated or improperly installed software. Failing to deploy security patches or firmware updates can leave devices susceptible to known vulnerabilities that hackers are all too eager to exploit. 
    • In addition, using weak passwords—or, even worse, not updating the default passwords that come pre-installed on hardware like routers and printers—offers up little resistance to hackers attempting to access your systems. When passwords aren’t strong, unique, and secured by multiple layers of protection like trusted authenticator apps or enterprise-grade password managers, cybercriminals can steal sensitive data with relative ease.
  • Free applications put your business at risk. While free applications may seem like a cost-effective solution for businesses looking to cut expenses, they often come with hidden risks that can jeopardize cybersecurity. Many free applications rely on advertising revenue or data monetization, leading to privacy concerns and potential exploitation of user data.
    • Popular file-sharing and storage tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, and WeTransfer also lack the robust security features built into their enterprise-grade counterparts, making them more susceptible to attack by cybercriminals. In some cases, free applications can be manipulated by hackers who install malicious code or design hidden backdoors that can compromise user devices and steal sensitive information.
    • A key trend reported in the Microsoft Digital Defense Report 2023 was remote ransomware encryption, where one computer on a network is hacked, a single file on that computer is encrypted, and then that encrypted file is added to a file-sharing folder accessible on another machine. That can quickly spread the ransomware without needing to break into more than a single machine. 

Consider these best practices for cybersecurity.

To safeguard against the dangers of unprotected devices and free applications, businesses must prioritize cybersecurity and implement proactive measures to mitigate risks. Here are some of the strategies that CMIT Solutions recommends: 

  • Invest in comprehensive security solutions. Free or consumer-grade tools rarely cut it in the business world. Instead, talk to a trusted IT provider about the protection offered by robust antivirus software, advanced firewalls, and intrusion detection systems that can offer 24/7 protection from cyberthreats. The predictable cost of such an investment is almost always cheaper than the cost to try and recover from a cyberattack, which can wreak extensive havoc on business operations and negatively impact your company’s reputation.
  • Implement robust access controls for all business systems and sensitive data. Many employees still think that multi-factor authentication (MFA) is difficult to use or frustrating to figure out. But building in extra layers of access control can protect important information and mission-critical systems, restricting access to authorized personnel through “zero trust” and “least privilege” measures that require everyone to follow the same strict login protocols. If you need to work with third-party vendors or outside contacts, a trusted IT provider can help you isolate the systems that are accessed by external resources, keeping internal file storage and data backups fully encrypted.
  • Offer ongoing training and education to your employees. Provide comprehensive cybersecurity training to employees to raise awareness of potential threats and teach best practices for safe computing. Emphasize the importance of strong passwords, regular software updates, and cautious browsing habits to mitigate risks.
  • Regularly, remotely, and redundantly back up data. Every business should have a robust data backup and recovery plan in place to mitigate the potential impact of cyberattacks and information loss. At CMIT Solutions, we store backups in both secure offsite locations and cloud-based archives to make sure data is accessible in the event of a security breach. We also test all recovery and continuity protocols in advance so that everything runs smoothly if a disaster does strike.

If you want to reduce your company’s exposure to digital threats and safeguard sensitive data from potential exploitation, this kind of proactive approach to cybersecurity is critical.

A trusted IT provider like CMIT Solutions will help you anticipate issues, prepare for attacks, and mitigate the impact of any infection with multi-layered tools. These include content filtering and traffic analysis, SSL decryption and inspection, 24/7 monitoring, threat detection, and endpoint detection to scan for attacks.

As more and more computer users connect to the Internet with unmanaged devices and download free business applications, risks continue to multiply. CMIT Solutions has spent more than 25 years defending the data, securing the networks, and empowering the employees of thousands of businesses across North America. 

No matter what industry you work in or where your business is located, we can help keep you safe from ransomware, hackers, and everyday digital issues. Contact us today to increase overall resilience and ensure long-term success.

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