Whether you’re a small business owner, a technology consultant for a major organization, or just an average consumer, you need to be thinking about cybersecurity. A single cyberattack costs a business an average of $200,000, and if you’re the victim of an attack as an individual, it could put a strain on your finances and identity management for years to come.
Most people realize this, and understand the importance of cybersecurity. However, they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of cyber threats in a way that renders them vulnerable.
Common Misconceptions About Cyber Threats
These are some of the most pervasive myths about cyber threats:
- All attacks happen immediately. The cyberattacks we see announced on the news are usually dramatic; they hit hard and fast, and everyone seems to know about them immediately. This leads many people to a false sense of security; they believe if they’re a victim of an attack, they’ll see the effects right away. In reality, cyberattacks have gotten much stealthier and harder to notice. Many viruses have an incubation period, much like a biological virus, so it could be weeks, or even months before you begin to notice the effects. Don’t assume that you’re in the clear just because you haven’t seen anything abnormal.
- Antivirus programs will protect you. There are many antivirus programs out there, some of which are completely free to consumers. And to be sure, these programs do a decent job; they’re capable of flagging and eradicating suspicious activity, and can help you scan individual files before you open them to ensure they don’t have anything malicious attached. However, they can’t possibly protect you from every threat, and some of the most dangerous threats are ones that your antivirus program can’t notice—like an employee voluntarily handing over their login credentials.
- Small businesses aren’t common targets. Small business owners often feel like they aren’t a “real” target. After all, there are big businesses and governmental organizations that would represent much more lucrative targets. In reality, 43 percent of all cyberattacks target small businesses specifically. They may not have as much money or as much to lose as their bigger counterparts, but they make up for that with vulnerability; in other words, they’re easy targets. And if you let security issues slide because you don’t take cyber threats seriously, you’ll become an even easier target.
- IT will take care of everything. If your business has an IT department, or someone in charge of technology-related matters, you might lean heavily on their expertise when developing a cybersecurity strategy. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, relying exclusively on IT can be problematic. Cyber threats can arise from almost anywhere, and can infiltrate almost any department; accordingly, all your employees should be trained on cybersecurity best practices, and each department should bear some responsibility for keeping your organization safe. Now more than ever, security is everyone’s responsibility.
- Basic security measures are common sense. As an individual or a business owner, it’s tempting to think that basic security measures are “common sense.” Nobody would fall for a Nigerian Prince email scheme or have “password” as their actual password. But this is problematic for two reasons. First, it creates a blind spot for yourself; if you think you already know everything about cybersecurity, there will inevitably be important strategies that you fail to learn. Second, it typically causes you to overestimate the abilities and vigilance of others; you can’t blindly trust that your coworkers or employees will always follow security best practices, or that they even know what they are.
- All threats are external. It’s tempting to think that all cyber threats come from “bad guys” outside your organization hoping to breach your perimeter for personal gain. But you also need to think about internal threats. There’s always a chance that one of your employees is intentionally exploiting the business from the inside, or that they’re allowing other people to gain entry to your systems.
- Strong passwords are enough. A strong password is an impressive defense against many types of cyberattacks, but it’s not going to protect you from everything. No matter how strong your password is, you could still be rendered vulnerable if you fail to update your software regularly, if you voluntarily give your password away, or if you choose to download a malicious file.
Updating Your Cybersecurity Strategy
If you’ve found yourself believing any of these cyber threat misconceptions, don’t worry—there’s still time to update your cybersecurity strategy. The world of cybersecurity is always evolving, so flexibility and adaptability are your greatest keys to success. Prioritize further education, and stay abreast of new cybersecurity developments if you want to minimize your chances of becoming a victim.