Guest post by Caroline Black.
Cybersecurity is becoming more of a concern for individuals, businesses and even governments. Top U.S. security specialists have stated that cyberattacks are one of the leading threats to U.S. security. Cyberattacks are clearly a major issue for any entity that uses the internet. Basically, if you have an online business, it’s a target for hackers. Luckily, there are certain steps you can take to prevent or recover from a cyberattack.
The Ever-Increasing Risk of Cyberattacks
Cyberattacks on businesses are on the rise. Security companies such as Symantec and Arbor Networks have warned there has been a significant increase in the number of cyberattacks on businesses in the last year. Even the U.S. government has expressed concerns, with Jeremy Grant, an advisor to the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, commenting on the sharp increase in cyberattacks. In addition to rising numbers of cyberattacks, there has also been a disturbing increase in the sophistication of these attacks. It appears that hackers are refining their skills faster than security companies can improve their products.
There are numerous media reports of high-profile cyberattacks on large businesses, and this leads some small business owners to believe that their businesses are not at risk. This is blatantly false. Small businesses are not immune to cyberattacks. In fact, they’re increasingly being targeted by hackers, precisely because their security measures often aren’t as stringent as those of big businesses.
Another problem is that small business owners frequently underestimate the impact of a cyberattack on their business. According to a Kaspersky Lab survey, the average direct cost of a cyberattack on a small business is $38,000. The same survey found that the average indirect cost is $8,000, along with an average customer loss of 31 percent. These costs are extremely high and could potentially bankrupt a small business.
How You Can Protect Your Business Site
Given the high probability of your business falling prey to a cyberattack and the potential financial loss involved, it’s essential that you implement strong security measures. These measures will ensure it’s harder for hackers to attack your business. This will help prevent them from stealing your digital assets, accessing your customer data, or damaging your IT systems.
The following cybersecurity measures will improve your business’s security and significantly lower the risk of a cyberattack:
- Use strong passwords, particularly for social media accounts (They can create a significant weakness in your business’s cybersecurity)
- Encrypt all your customer data
- Encrypt all your digital assets
- Activate all your IT system logs and keep them activated at all times
- Install and run anti-virus software
- Utilize a Virtual Private Network whenever you are not using a secure network
- Use a firewall
- Back up all your website and social media page content often
- Use two-factor authentication wherever possible
- Moderate all user comments on your website and social media pages
- Buy comprehensive cyberinsurance (This won’t prevent cyberattacks, but it will improve your business’s financial situation if it does suffer a cyberattack)
While these cybersecurity measures won’t necessarily prevent all types of cyberattacks, they will lower the probability of your business falling prey to a cyberattack.
How to Tell If Your Business Site Has Been Hacked
The sooner you become aware that your business has suffered a cyberattack, the more you can do to mitigate it. Therefore, it is essential that you know how to tell if your business site has been hacked. It’s also crucial to constantly monitor your site for cyberattacks.
The following are all warning signs that your business has been hacked, so always take action if you notice any of them:
- Links on your website are redirected
- New content that you didn’t upload appears on your website
- Your website stops functioning
- Your site is blacklisted by Google or another search engine
- You get fake anti-virus messages
- New programs are installed and start running without your authorization
- Your passwords change, seemingly on their own
- Unauthorized data uploads and downloads
- Browser searches that you didn’t make
- Your internet searches are redirected
- Your browser has new toolbars that you didn’t install or activate
- You see frequent random pop-ups
- Your mouse moves and clicks programs on its own
- Your antimalware software is disabled and won’t restart
- There is money missing from bank accounts
- You are contacted by stores about nonpayment of shipped goods
- An increase in failed login attempts
- Emails you didn’t send are sent from your account
- Unusual email attachments from colleagues or on your own emails
- Your system logs don’t correlate to your normal usage patterns
These warning signs may indicate that your business site has suffered a cyberattack. If you notice any of them, check for a cyberattack immediately.
What to Do if Your Business Site Has Been Hacked
If you discover that your business site has suffered a cyberattack, you need to act quickly to avoid further breaches and limit damage. Carry out the following steps as soon as you become aware of a cyberattack:
- Do not put your device off as this may erase evidence that could be used to trace the hacker
- Disconnect from the internet
- Reset your passwords
- Search your system logs to determine what type of cyberattack has occurred
- Repair your system as quickly as possible
- Look for other security weaknesses and fix them
- Call in a security consultant to perform the previous steps if you lack the expertise
- Back up any salvageable data
- Hire a legal representative as soon as you can
- Notify all relevant organizations as soon as possible
- Notify your customers
- Contact your insurance company about submitting a claim
It’s essential to follow the proper procedure if your business suffers a cyberattack. It will limit your data and financial losses and decrease the harm done to your business.
How to Get Your Business Site Removed from Google’s Blacklist
Search engines will blacklist websites when they find certain irregularities on the site that may be the result of malware. If your business site is hacked, you may well be blacklisted. This means that the search engine will remove your site from their index and it won’t appear in any searches.
Once your business site has been blacklisted, it can be quite difficult to have it reinstated. However, if you implement the following measures, your site will probably be reinstated in fairly short order:
- Immediately save your index file and post another one, such as “Our website is currently undergoing maintenance, please visit again later”. This will prevent any more users being infected by malware from your site
- Scan your site for malware
- Remove any malware that you find
- If you use a content management system, such as WordPress, update it immediately and remove any themes and plugins
- Change all your passwords
- Ensure that your device is not infected with malware
- Log in to Google Search Console and add your site
- Follow the steps to have your site re-verified
This process can be quite complicated, so you might need to hire a consultant to do it for you.
It may take a few days for Google to reverify your site, so don’t be too concerned if it does not happen immediately.
If your business is hacked, there are steps you can take to limit the damage done, but a cyberattack is an unpleasant and damaging experience. It’s best to try to avoid it if possible, so ensure that you implement as many security measures as possible to safeguard your business.
What cybersecurity measures do you currently have in place? Has your business been the target of a cyberattack? If so, how did you deal with it?
About the Author: Caroline Black is a tech blogger with a special interest in cybersecurity. She is passionate about helping individuals and businesses avoid cyberattacks and all the damage they can cause.