Edith Cowan University

Edith Cowan University is a young and progressive university with a strong reputation for excellence in teaching. We have been rated the maximum five stars for teaching quality 12 years in a row. Today, we have more than 30,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, and close to 5,500 of our students are studying online in some capacity.

How to handle common cyber security threats

Cyberattacks are one of the top risks facing the world in 2019

Credit: ID 111389038 © Deniz Bayram | Dreamstime.com

In 2018, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report declared cyberattacks were one of the biggest threats facing the world. As businesses become more dependent on technology, the importance of cyber security rises with it.

The impact of a cyberattack is multifaceted and can be devastating to victims. From a financial perspective alone, the average cost of cyber breaches for a company is $US3.92 million. It can also compromise sensitive business or customer data, technology, and damage brand reputation. 

Whether you are a cyber security professional or interested in moving into the field, cyber security is becoming a must-have for all Australian businesses. Cyber security professionals are key to mitigating the risks cyber security attacks pose, both to individuals and businesses.

Common cyber security threats to Australian businesses

Australian businesses are subject to a wide array of cyber security threats. However, there are certain common threats that you, as a cyber security professional, need to be ready to deal with. They include:

Malware – an umbrella term that describes malicious software designed to cause harm to the recipient and is frequently delivered by email. It may:

  • Encrypt your important information
  • Steal or delete sensitive data
  • Hijack or alter functionality
  • Spy on users’ activity without consent.

Some examples of malware include:

  • Viruses
  • Spyware
  • Trojans (hidden malicious programs or code)
  • Worms (self-replicating viruses that resides in active memory).

Phishing – a process where a cyber attacker pretends to be an organisation with which you have a relationship such as your bank. By baiting people into opening an email or electronic message, they are tricked into providing financial or personal details. Phishing messages often contain external links to Web pages where you will be asked to enter confidential details. In a business context, without proper cyber training, employees may be unable to identify genuine emails from phishing emails.

It is important to learn the key signs to look for when choosing to follow links in emails. 

Ransomware – a type of malware that holds the recipient ransom, hijacking personal or organisational data and offering to restore it for a fee. There is no guarantee that paying for the ransom will protect you from future attacks (or even return your data).

Cyber security professionals are trained in ransomware and know what to do — and what not to do.

Unsecured devices – A networked device is likely to have a firewall that aims to create an impermeable border between a network and the Internet. However, if there is a gap in this protective wall caused by not updating the factory-set configuration or missing device updates, you could be unwittingly exposing yourself to cyber hackers.

Cyber security professionals need to ensure all devices are up-to-date and protected to keep dangerous and unauthorised connections out.  Look at the Australian government’s Stay Smart Online guide to learn about other types of cyber security attacks. 

3 common ways companies can help guard against these threats

1. Train employees and build a culture of cyber security awareness 

Cyber hackers try to expose any weak link in the chain by exploiting employees’ trust or lack of knowledge on cyber security.

As a cyber security professional, you can help businesses reduce the threat of cyberattacks. You can do this by making cyber security a key part of the workplace, ensuring employees are trained with the skills they need to avoid exposing the business to a cyber threat. 

This culture of cyber security awareness has the power to convert employees from the primary target to the first line of defence.

Cyber security training should cover:

  • Password requirements
  • Email standards
  • How to handle sensitive data
  • Handling technology (computers and other devices)
  • Social media standards
  • How to detect, respond and report cyber incidents
  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

2. Carry out risk assessments

To effectively prepare for cyber security threats, companies must carry out risk assessments which help detect any cracks in internal processes that could make you vulnerable to cyberattack.

The Australian government has also created some useful tools to help companies assess and prepare for cyber security threats. The Cyber Security Risk Self-Assessment Tool is a 20-minute test that will help gauge if your business is a likely target for cyberattacks, and show how developed your current cyber security practices are.

3. Employ a cyber security professional

Cyber security professionals are trained in the best ways to reduce the chances of cyber security breaches. A cyber security professional will likely address:

  • Hardware security
  • Encrypting and backing up all data
  • Cultivating a culture of cyber security awareness
  • Using robust anti-malware software and firewalls
  • Investing in cyber security insurance.

Employing a cyber security professional ensures steps are being taken to protect staff and customers from the dangers of cybercrime. 

Become a cyber security expert

When you look at the risk and associated costs involved with cyber security breaches, the expense of a cyber security expert in your workplace pales in comparison.

Cyber security professionals have the education, expertise and know-how to continuously prepare a business for increasing and evolving cyber security challenges.

You can help solve the cyber security problems of tomorrow by taking a Master of Cyber Security course. Edith Cowan University’s Master course is 100 per cent online. As such, students can maintain their current employment and enjoy flexible study arrangements to suit their schedule.

Learn the skills to protect your business from these threats by studying a Master of Cyber Security.

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