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Start protecting these 4 things to keep your business going

When a business invests in its people, stakeholders, resources, and processes, they are better able to cope with the outcomes and financial losses from unprecedented times and cybersecurity incidents.

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Photo by Damian Zaleski from Unsplash.com

With the lowest recorded drop of 16.5% in the Philippine economy since the mid-80s, Kaspersky advises small and medium enterprise (SME) owners in the country to begin protecting its employees, customers, suppliers, and infrastructure to stay in the game during these uncertain times.

Making short term decisions that will have an impact on their businesses in the longer term should be the SME sector’s top priorities during the current downturn, according to the cybersecurity company.  

“At the onset of the pandemic, we have recommended for companies to look after their employees first and foremost. Nine months into lockdown, we still advise businesses to keep their employees working and provide support for them under the safest possible conditions. At this point, we suggest for businesses with good liquidity to also take care of their customers and suppliers because recovery for every stakeholder means a steady run for the business towards the coming recovery,” says Yeo Siang Tiong, general manager for Kaspersky Southeast Asia. 

For the SME sector, Yeo emphasized the value of making investments in the business’ future during an economic slump, not after.

“If you look at post-recession recoveries in the past, what companies choose to invest into their businesses has played a big role in how weak or strong they fared after a crisis. It’s about time that Filipino SMEs pay attention to this during this period,” says Yeo.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2018 show that 99.52 percent of business establishments in the country are MSMEs. In recent years, most small and medium enterprises, like their major league counterparts, have learned to adopt digital tools as they joined the e-commerce arena, enjoying wider market reach and higher revenue than they ever had with offline systems.

Since the start of the lockdown due to the pandemic, the Philippines recorded more than 75,000 online business registrations in the first nine months of the year, one local mobile money services provider reported a 150% surge in registrations in one month and the government allowed 56 more institutions accepting digital payments during the first months of quarantine.

Like the big boys, too, the dynamic SME sector has been officially in the radar of cybercriminals.

In a report from the cybersecurity company, ransomware attacks against almost 19,000 computers of SMEs in the region with Kaspersky software were blocked in the first half of 2019. While the number of ransomware attacks on computers of small and medium enterprises is observed to be dropping, there is a monitored increase in sophisticated targeted ransomware, phishing attacks, and crypto mining attempts.

Unfortunately, the IT department is the least prioritized concern of most SMEs. Oftentimes, the single person assigned to take charge of monitoring the entire infrastructure is not even a full time employee.

Kaspersky shares the following top five tech checks an IT administrator can routinely do:

  1. Set an alarm in your calendar about certificate renewal. Potential customers get scared exploring your website further when they get warnings that it has no SSL certificate.
  2. Update router firmware. Keeping software up to date means lesser vulnerabilities. 
  3. Revoke unnecessary access rights of dismissed employees.
  4. Back up your data.
  5. Update AV licenses on servers.

Claire Hatcher, head of the fraud prevention department at Kaspersky, said the pandemic has given cybercriminals a new context to exploit but the attack is the same. “The nature of the attack never really changes that much and it naturally increased because people have become susceptible now,” she said.

When a business invests in its people, stakeholders, resources, and processes, they are better able to cope with the outcomes and financial losses from unprecedented times and cybersecurity incidents.

“We found out that small and medium enterprises are willing to know how to perform better especially while securing their cash flow during these times. We know it’s not always economically viable to maintain a dedicated IT security team. Get help on what is not your core. This is where technology can come in to support,” says Yeo.

Businesses with limited cybersecurity expertise and resources but need help on having company-wide insights on incidents and the ability to respond will greatly benefit from solutions such as the new Kaspersky Endpoint Detection and Response Optimum. KEDRO is actually an efficient way for SMEs to reduce costs while saving on protection as it complements protection for endpoints such as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops connected to the company network.

Tech & Innovation

7 Tips on mitigating cyber risks to your corporate social media in 2023

As many businesses use social media to promote their products and services, these threats are relevant to an extremely large number of companies. To help them stay safe, Kaspersky experts are offering the following advice to mitigate the cyber risks associated with social media in 2023. 

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Anna Larkina, Web content analysis expert, Kaspersky
and
Roman Dedenok, Spam analysis expert, Kaspersky 

Threats to corporate social media are evolving along with perpetrators’ social engineering skills at a blistering pace. Sometimes their techniques reach such a high level that even the tech-savvy administrator of a corporate network can’t tell the difference between a scam and the truth. 

As many businesses use social media to promote their products and services, these threats are relevant to an extremely large number of companies. To help them stay safe, Kaspersky experts are offering the following advice to mitigate the cyber risks associated with social media in 2023. 

Use caution with direct messages and drafts folder, delete old irrelevant information  

Companies should be careful about keeping sensitive information in direct messages – it can pose cyber risks. 

People often use corporate social media to write directly to brands, asking for help, using the account holder’s product or service. Also, some partnerships, such as those with bloggers, can be negotiated in direct messages. Sometimes personal or financial information is shared during these conversations, which could remain in the messages folder long after the interaction. If there is a breach allowing cyber criminals to gain unauthorized access to the account, sensitive data may be leaked or used to organize an attack.

To avoid this risk, make it a useful habit to delete irrelevant messages when the dialog is finished and the information it contains is no longer relevant. The same applies to posts – It is worth carefully reviewing what is saved in the drafts folder from time to time.

Review old posts to minimize reputational risks  

The power of reputation is growing: every word, action, and decision can either help or harm the company’s image. 

Everything published online is of great importance in terms of cyber security as well: when sensitive information (re)appears in public, it almost always ends up hurting a company’s reputation and could incur financial losses.

To be on the safe side, spend some time reviewing already published posts, as they might contain information that doesn’t fit into the current reality – that might be anything from inappropriate jokes to controversial advertising campaigns.

What was normal yesterday, can cause a negative public reaction today. A review of publications made over the past few years largely reduces related reputational risks.

Be careful posting your success stories 

Having signed a lucrative contract or reached a deal, we want to post it on social media to tell as many people as possible about our success. But we really need to be aware of unwanted cybercriminals’ attention. If a potential attacker knows who your suppliers or contractors are, they could try to conduct an attack impersonating them or breaching their accounts and acting on their behalf. 

Moreover, the clearer you reflect your company’s structure and working methods on social media, the easier it is for perpetrators to organize an attack. For example, if it is possible to trace who is responsible for finance, an attacker can pretend to be this person’s supervisor and try to lure them into urgently transferring a large sum of money to a fake account to “close a deal” or “purchase necessary equipment”. Exercising various social engineering techniques, a perpetrator can convincingly impersonate another person, and a victim would hardly notice the fraud.

Warn newcomers about risks associated with “new job” posts on social media

After getting a new job, newcomers usually share the news on social media, but they do not yet understand how cybersecurity processes are built in this company: for example, how identification works or with whom they can share sensitive information. Therefore, a newcomer is more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Imagine: a perpetrator tracks this person in social media and collects information about them. Then the criminal writes the new employee a malicious letter on behalf of the company’s IT administrator asking to share the password to set up a technical account.  It is highly likely that a newcomer will share the password because they do not know that the administrators would never write such a letter. Moreover, new employees are usually shy, and they might hesitate to ask their colleagues if the letter is authentic. A tiny little post on social media might turn the employee into an entry point for cybercriminals. 

To mitigate the risk, offer newcomers a course on information security immediately, and tell them to be extremely careful when posting about a new job. 

Control account access (and don’t forget to change the password when an employee leaves) 

Logins, passwords, and access to the email address used to create a social media account are just as valuable as other internal corporate documents. 

If an employee who has access to accounts and authentication data leaves the company, it is useful to apply the same rules as when blocking their access to the corporate network. 

To begin with, change the password for the e-mail account linked to the corporate social network; then unlink the ex-employee’s mobile phone number and check other authentication methods – for example, a spare mailbox.

Do not ignore two-factor authentication 

Any account on a social network, not to mention a corporate one, must be securely protected. Two-factor authentication is an absolutely necessary setting for any type of account.

The email address linked to the account should be as protected as the social media account itself. Often the attack begins with an initial access to email. After breaching an account, an attacker can configure filters in the mailbox settings to delete all support emails from the social network. Therefore, a user will not be able to restore access to their account, because all emails will be deleted automatically. Not to mention that in a stressful situation we won’t be checking which filters are currently configured in our mailbox. 

It is best to register a social media account using a corporate email address. To begin with, it is better protected (assuming the company cares about cybersecurity). Furthermore, in-house security specialists can block access to this mailbox along with all access to the corporate network.

Provide your employees with anti-phishing training 

To mitigate cyber risks in social media networks, it is not enough to protect your company’s account technically, it is equally important to conduct special training for employees on information security, various types of phishing, and other threats.

According to user statistics on the Kaspersky Gamified Assessment Tool, designed to educate workers and to assist managers in measuring their cyber skills, just 11% of nearly 4000 employees demonstrated a high level of cybersecurity awareness in 2022, while 28% could not prove sufficient cybersecurity proficiency.

Attackers use sophisticated methods of social engineering. Even the most advanced representatives of Gen Z can succumb to them. The human factor cannot be reduced to zero, but it can be minimized as much as possible with the help of dedicated training.

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Tech & Innovation

Fear can inspire remote workers to protect IT resources

Basically, the more workers felt that their organization’s resources were their own, the more likely they were to respond in the desired way.

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Fear of what could go wrong is the greatest motivator when it comes to getting remote workers to protect their employer’s information technology security, according to a recent study in Computers & Security. But it tends to work best when employees also have a solid understanding of the severity of potential security threats, including the knowledge of what to do when the worst happens. 

As millions of people continue to work remotely, the research provides employers with key insights to keep their valuable information safe. 

“Employees need to feel this is a big deal if it happens, so the number one thing employers can do is to clearly communicate what the threats are and how serious they could be,” said Robert Crossler, corresponding author for the study and associate professor in the Carson College of Business at Washington State University. “Because for most people this is not their job. Their job is to make something or sell something, not to make good security choices, even if it is critical for their organization.” 

For the study, the researchers examined and compared two approaches for motivating security compliance behaviors in a changing work environment. 

Protection motivation theory posits that organizations can encourage secure behaviors through fear appeals, threat messages and promoting self-efficacy, or the ability to respond to a particular threat. The practice, which often utilizes surveillance to monitor employee actions, has been used effectively for decades to deter people from engaging in risky behaviors at work and to discourage unhealthy practices such as smoking or having unsafe sex. 

The second approach Crossler and his collaborators examined is stewardship theory. Stewardship theory is a form of reciprocal agreement that tries to motivate the employee’s behavior through a sense of moral responsibility that is not forced. In this approach, management attempts to get the employee to buy into the organization’s overall vision while giving them organizational support to act independently when confronted with a security threat. 

For the analysis, 339 people who worked at companies with IT security policies were recruited to answer a scenario-based survey. The three survey scenarios describe common policy violations that are relevant to remote work situations, such as the use of unauthorized storage devices, logging off a sensitive account when it is not in use and refraining from sharing one’s password with others. 

Each respondent randomly read one of three of the scenarios and then indicated their likelihood to act in a certain way based on various protection motivation and stewardship theory factors. Although working from home would seem to require relying on concepts more consistent with stewardship theory, the study showed that an approach that relied on the fear and threats emphasized in protection motivation theory was far more effective at preventing employees from violating security policy than a strictly stewardship-based approach.

One novel aspect of the study was that Crossler and his collaborators also considered a security approach that integrated factors of the two theories together. 

The researchers found that promoting a sense of collectivism, a concept from stewardship theory that emphasizes the mutual benefits of good behavior for both the employee and the employer, helped increased the efficacy of protection motivation theory-based methods.

“Basically, what we found was that the more workers felt that their organization’s resources were their own, the more likely they were to respond in the desired way,” Crossler said. “Instilling a sense of collectivism in employees is only going to help enhance people’s likelihood of protecting security policies.” 

The study, which was conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of North Texas and Oklahoma State University, also showed that in some cases, a protection motivation theory approach to IT security would back-fire and result in security misbehaviors. As a result of their analysis, the authors recommend that companies should consider removing or reducing surveillance practices that are a common aspect of protection motivation theory. Where such removal is impracticable, employers should consider providing employees with contextual reasons for performing such monitoring. 

“This is really the first study that brings stewardship theory and protection motivation theory together in the context of IT security for people working from home,” Crossler said. “While stewardship theory did not work as well as protection motivation, our results suggest that managerial decisions informed by a stewardship perspective can help to provide a further understanding of security policy violations that motivates employees to make the right decision.”

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Tech & Innovation

Social media can be a lifesaver for international new ventures

Newly established international firms and start-ups with limited resources can effectively use social media to learn about their new foreign markets and customers in a fast and inexpensive way.

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The use of social media can be beneficial to international new ventures and help them to survive. This is according to a study – Early Internationalization in the Digital Context: A Capabilities-based Approachfrom the University of Vaasa, Finland, which also showed that newly established international firms and start-ups with limited resources can effectively use social media to learn about their new foreign markets and customers in a fast and inexpensive way.

For any international new venture, acquiring enough foreign market knowledge can be a matter of life and death. According to Emmanuel Kusi Appiah’s doctoral dissertation, an international new venture can use social media, and then employ ambidextrous learning in its knowledge development process. Ambidextrous learning means using two diverse ways of learning: exploratory learning and exploitative learning.

Exploratory learning helps the company to discover new threats and opportunities in its environment. Exploitative learning, on the other hand, utilises the current market information the firm already has.

“A company can use social media for exploitative learning, but also for exploratory learning to survive in foreign markets. The company can also switch between these two approaches,  according to the situation and company strategy. The use of social media has a positive impact on ambidextrous learning,” says Emmanuel Kusi Appiah.

Firms can benefit from social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook in their networking efforts. In addition, social media tools such as Buzzsumo, Tagboard and AgoraPulse can provide the necessary knowledge about customers, competitors, and existing and new markets, thereby reducing the difficulties a new firm would otherwise face in foreign markets. Acquiring knowledge is usually more difficult when a firm is new, especially if it is new and foreign.

Ambidextrous learning can help firms to combine new external knowledge with existing knowledge and prevent inefficiency and short-sightedness. It can also help firms to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Emmanuel Kusi Appiah reminds us that applying ambidextrous learning is not straightforward. Entrepreneurs and companies that are planning to move into a new market internationally need to understand the drivers and mechanisms that support ambidexterity. The dissertation provides valuable information regarding this aspect.

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