Does your company have sensitive communications or data to protect? Could a secure communications method reduce your risks?

Cyber Security is indispensable in our increasingly digitized and connected world, with new threats emerging daily. From alarming rises in social engineering scams to cross-border coordinated hacking efforts by state actors, no individual or organization is immune from potential compromise without diligent focus on cyber resilience.

Business email compromise statistics
Cybersecurity

Recent estimates reveal cyber crimes are set to inflict over $10 trillion in damages worldwide by 2025 if current trends continue. Yet despite growing cyber risks, many smaller businesses in particular still lack formalized defenses and strategic readiness planning. Education is the first step towards awareness and ultimately self-protection

We discussed these business essentials and much more with John Bailie of Northern Ireland-based SaltDNA.

Cyber Security with John Bailie

Cyber Security? Talking Secure Communications With John Bailie

John’s company offers a solution for secure enterprise communications (including voice, text and file) between mobile devices and desktop computers.

He explained that having customers worldwide and being more widely known overseas than at home, means SaltDNA is very much an international business.

“We meet some very, very interesting people. Myself and my CEO would be around the world a lot meeting with different clients and at different events around the world.

“We probably travel twice a month, and the CEO would travel even more than I do.”

Surprisingly, none of SaltDNA’s customers are based in Northern Ireland.

“We had to become a ‘born global’ type of company, we did our research and tested the product with local companies but we didn’t believe there was the level of education and level of knowledge to really embrace what we were trying to sell.

“So we had to go abroad, we started building partnerships and looking at regions that really understood the threat we were trying to solve.

“We looked at Africa to begin with, we looked at the Middle East and we’re now starting to bring it back into Europe and the UK.”

John outlined the business benefits offered by SaltDNA’s product.

“It’s effectively very like WhatsApp or Signal, there’s a communications app on a user’s end device so they can carry out a one-to-one call, a conference call, send a one-to-one message or a group message plus send video attachments or audio attachments.

“It very much has the look and feel of a consumer messaging application but it has been built from the ground up for enterprise.

“Everything has been developed to fit the needs of an official organisation who need who need to communicate across the world on any network with important information they just can’t have falling into the wrong hands.

“It’s a type of two-tier system where you would have the messaging application working alongside the management portal, which is in place to give the organisation much more capability and control of their communications system.”

The ability to manage metadata is a vital part of solution.

“They can control who gets invited onto the system, they can control who communicates with who on the system and most importantly can control how and where their metadata is being stored.

“We provide the control to the organisation, for example if they want to take the data and place it within their own structures. We also offer a cloud-based solution.

“The need to know what is happening with your information is much more prevalent all across the world. Our system is used by law firms across the world who need to discuss litigation cases. With anything of any substance you need to make sure that information is secure and private otherwise it can fall into the wrong hands.”

John gave an example of how lax cyber security can prove very costly.

“There were cases were hackers across the world were able to intercept a deal that was happening and ended up making millions on the stock market because they knew that the purchase was about to take place.”

To discover much more about how SaltDNA can help cyber security, secure communications and more explore our full video interview.

SSL certificates help with your websites cyber security.
Cybersecurity is a key element of technical SEO and an SSL certificate is one example that can improve your sites security. Credit: Tirza van Dijk

Cyber security: Key Concepts Explained

Navigating the digital world can feel like venturing into uncharted territory, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. Terms like encryption, VPNs, and phishing can sound daunting, but understanding these core concepts is crucial for protecting yourself online. So, let’s embark on a journey of demystification!

1. Encryption: Imagine sending a secret message in a locked box, accessible only to the recipient with the key. That’s essentially how encryption works. It scrambles your data (emails, files, messages) into an unreadable format using complex algorithms. Only someone with the decryption key can unlock and decipher the information. This protects sensitive data from prying eyes, whether it’s transmitted over the internet or stored on your device.

Real-world example: When you enter your credit card information on a secure website, it’s encrypted before being sent to the payment processor. This ensures hackers lurking on the network can’t steal your financial details.

2. VPNs (Virtual Private Networks): Think of a VPN as a secure tunnel that lets you access the internet anonymously and privately. It reroutes your internet traffic through an encrypted server in another location, masking your real IP address and location. This provides several benefits:

  • Enhanced privacy: Your browsing activity and online movements become invisible to your internet service provider (ISP), government agencies, or even snoopers on public Wi-Fi.
  • Security boost: Encrypted connections protect your data from being intercepted by hackers, especially on unsecured networks.
  • Geo-restrictions bypass: You can access websites and content that might be blocked in your region.

Real-world example: A business traveler working remotely in a foreign country might use a VPN to securely access confidential company data or bypass local internet censorship.

3. Phishing: Phishing attacks are like clever fishing lures, designed to trick you into revealing your personal information or downloading malware. They often come in the form of emails, texts, or social media messages disguised as legitimate entities like banks, social media platforms, or even friends. These messages might contain:

  • Urgent requests to update your account or verify your information.
  • Enticing offers or deals that seem too good to be true.
  • Links that appear to lead to familiar websites but actually direct you to fake phishing sites.

Real-world example: You receive an email from your “bank” asking you to click a link to confirm a suspicious transaction. The link might look legitimate, but it actually takes you to a fake website designed to steal your login credentials.

4. DDoS Attacks (Distributed Denial-of-Service Attacks): Imagine a flood of traffic overwhelming a website or server, making it inaccessible to legitimate users. That’s a DDoS attack, where hackers bombard the target with a massive influx of requests from compromised devices, causing it to crash. This can cripple online businesses, government websites, or even critical infrastructure.

Real-world example: A hacker group might launch a DDoS attack against a major online retailer during a peak shopping season, hoping to disrupt operations and extort money.

Beyond these core concepts, remember:

  • Cybersecurity is an ongoing process: Stay vigilant, update your software regularly, and use strong passwords.
  • Be wary of unexpected emails and messages: Never click on suspicious links or attachments.
  • Educate yourself: Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices.

Actionable Cyber Security Best Practices

Protecting your data and systems from cyber threats requires proactive measures. Here’s a practical guide to bolstering your cybersecurity:

1. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): This goes beyond simple passwords. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second factor, like a fingerprint scan or one-time code, to verify your identity.

Action: Implement MFA for all accounts, personal and professional. Most platforms offer native MFA options or compatible third-party apps. Encourage widespread adoption within your organization.

2. Employee Training: Uneducated employees are vulnerable points. Regular training is key to building a cyber-aware workforce.

Action: Conduct at least quarterly cybersecurity training sessions covering phishing awareness, password hygiene, social engineering tactics, and reporting suspicious activity. Utilize real-world scenarios and simulations for better engagement.

3. Network and Device Auditing: Regularly scanning your network and devices for vulnerabilities is crucial for early detection and patching.

Action: Implement automated vulnerability scanning tools for networks and endpoints. Conduct quarterly manual audits for deeper analysis and address any uncovered vulnerabilities promptly. Maintain an asset inventory to track all devices connected to your network.

4. Password Management: Weak passwords are like open doors for attackers.

Action: Enforce strong password policies, including minimum length, complexity requirements, and regular updates. Encourage the use of password managers for secure storage and automatic password generation.

5. Data Backup and Recovery: Data loss can be devastating. Regular backups ensure business continuity.

Action: Implement a robust data backup and recovery plan, including on-site and off-site backups with regular testing and verification.

6. Software Updates: Software vulnerabilities are common entry points for attackers.

Action: Enable automatic updates for operating systems and applications whenever possible. Conduct quarterly manual updates for software not configured for auto-updates.

7. Phishing Awareness: Teach your employees to identify and avoid phishing attempts.

Action: Regularly share phishing examples and red flags, such as suspicious email addresses, sender names, and urgent language. Conduct simulated phishing attacks to test user awareness and refine training programs.

8. Access Control: Limit access to sensitive data based on the principle of least privilege.

Action: Review and update user access permissions regularly. Implement role-based access control to grant access only to resources users need for their specific tasks.

Remember: Cybersecurity is an ongoing journey, not a one-time destination. By diligently implementing these best practices and fostering a culture of security awareness, you can significantly reduce your cyber risks and create a more resilient digital environment.

Bonus Tip: Consider subscribing to security alerts and threat feeds to stay informed about emerging threats and vulnerabilities relevant to your industry.

2023 Cyber security Statistics: A Grim Yet Insightful Picture

Cybercrime is a booming industry, unfortunately at the expense of individuals and businesses worldwide. To effectively combat these threats, understanding the landscape is crucial. Let’s delve into the latest cybersecurity statistics for 2023, highlighting the staggering costs, breaches, and malware trends.

Global Costs of Cybercrime:

  • $8 Trillion: Projected global cost of cybercrime in 2023, exceeding the GDP of Switzerland (Cybersecurity Ventures). This represents a 15% increase from 2022.
  • $4.45 Million: The Average data breach cost in 2023, up 15% from 2020 (IBM). This translates to a per-capita cost of $165.
  • $5.13 Million: Average cost of a ransomware attack in 2023, a 13% increase from 2022 (IBM).

Records Breached:

  • 33 Billion: Estimated number of account breaches in 2023, representing a significant jump from previous years (GetApp).
  • 2.8 Billion: Malware attacks reported in the first half of 2022 alone (GetApp).
  • 255 Million: Phishing attacks reported in the first half of 2022 (GetApp).

Malware Variants:

  • 800,000 New Variants Daily: On average, 800,000 new malware variants are discovered each day, highlighting the ever-evolving threat landscape (Check Point).

Emerging Trends:

  • Supply Chain Attacks: A 430% increase in supply chain attacks compared to 2022, emphasizing the need for robust vendor security measures (Varonis).
  • Cloud Security Concerns: Data loss, leaks, and unauthorized access remain top concerns for cloud environments (NinjaOne).
  • Ransomware Evolution: Targeted attacks against critical infrastructure and the rise of “double extortion” schemes pose new challenges (Cisco).

Sources:

These statistics paint a grim picture, but they also offer valuable insights for individuals and organizations. By staying informed about evolving threats and implementing robust security measures, we can work together to mitigate the impact of cybercrime and create a safer digital world.

Remember, cybersecurity is an ongoing process, not a one-time fix. Stay vigilant, educate yourself, and prioritize security to navigate the increasingly complex threat landscape.

Cyber Security FAQ

Q: What are top priorities for enhancing cybersecurity readiness?

Top priorities include implementing multi-factor authentication, establishing antimalware and firewall protections, instituting mandatory employee cybersecurity training, auditing networks and systems to address vulnerabilities, and creating incident response plans.

Q: What are signs of a potential phishing attack?

Common signs include suspicious links or attachments in emails, spelling errors, threats demanding immediate action, requests for sensitive personal information over email, unfamiliar sender addresses, and mismatching links that don’t match an email’s context.

Q: Should all employees receive cybersecurity awareness training?

Yes, mandatory cybersecurity training for all employees is vital – teaching employees to identify threats helps stop social engineering attacks directly targeting end users, which tend to be the root cause behind most breaches. Prioritizing broad cybersecurity literacy strengthens any organization’s human defense layer.

Q: What’s more secure – a paid or free VPN?

Paid VPN services invest substantially more in validating security claims through frequent audits and tend to offer faster speeds with expanded server options. They also typically don’t impose data restrictions. Free VPNs often cut corners and can rarely validate their services can meet privacy promises.

Cyber Security Conclusion

Cyber threats only intensify each year, but education and vigilance are the best defenses. We hope this beginner’s guide provided helpful context around core cybersecurity concepts every internet user should know, latest threat trends to keep on your radar, and where to turn for additional guidance as you look to enhance your personal or enterprise security posture. Keep in mind that while threats are inevitable, being proactive minimizes vulnerability.

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