There’s seemingly a “day” for everything under the sun. And, if anything in our collective business and personal lives deserves its own day, surely the internet is high on the list. That said, there is indeed a day devoted to one of the most impactful inventions of all time: Internet Day on October 29. This day commemorates the first transmission “across” the internet, which consisted of two computers at the time. It also crashed after only two letters were transmitted, but beginnings are tough in the tech industry. Just take a look at what a website looked like back in the day. Be forewarned – if you are a UI/UX professional, this might be the scariest thing you see this Halloween season!
Frankly, it would be hard to overstate the internet’s impact. Amazon.com alone has been one of the greatest – or most destructive, depending on your vantage point – internet innovations. Remember having little or no choice but to commute to a physical store to buy something? Or, from a business perspective, how about sending physical letters and postcards by mail to reach prospects and customers? While these examples might seem like they are from the Stone Age, we’re talking the 90s here.
Maybe the best term to describe the internet, especially with regard to the changes it has fostered for SMBs, is “accelerant.” There is hardly a business process or operation that hasn’t been sped up in some way, shape or form by the internet. Whatever clichéd term is the next level up from “game-changing” is a better fit for describing the changes wrought by the internet. However…
This is why we can’t have nice things
Like all things we grow to enjoy and depend on, someone or something ALWAYS comes along to ruin it for everyone. Such is the internet’s story.
It’s hard to pinpoint when the first hacker appeared on the online scene, but it likely wasn’t long after that first transmission. And since then…yikes. The internet has become the world’s largest virtual haunted house, which is ironic given how close Internet Day and Halloween are on the calendar. And, just as with a real haunted house, threats abound everywhere. Even a journey of a few steps (or clicks, as the case may be) can be scary – if you don’t know what to look for, that is.
The source of a lot of the scariness is what is commonly known in the business world as “F.U.D.” Short for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, F.U.D. is rampant because the vast majority of consumers and businesses know little to nothing about what’s really going on behind the URL we happen to be parked at in any given moment.
Common causes of F.U.D.
Depending on how seriously you take security in general, and data protection specifically, there’s a not-insignificant chance that a malevolent actor is trying to access, observe, and/or steal your personal information. So, it’s not as if F.U.D. isn’t warranted.
A quick tour through the most common – and potentially damaging – causes of F.U.D.:
Malware: A blanket term for any type of malicious software that has the express purpose of attacking data, devices or other tech infrastructure, malware comes in many forms. Viruses, ransomware, spyware, adware, worms, Trojan horses…it’s a pretty scary cohort. The bad guys and girls, like all successful criminals, constantly shape-shift their approaches and tools to stay a step or two ahead of the victims. A good example of this is zero-day vulnerability, where the attack (i.e., insertion of malicious code) is unknown to the developer and is entrenched prior to the software even being released (hence the name).
The two primary vessels for malware delivery are email and, you guessed it – the internet.
Ransomware: As the name implies, your company’s data can be stolen or made inaccessible until a ransom is paid. In the old days, one had to steal a physical object or kidnap a person for an effective ransom strategy. That’s a lot of work and involves numerous controllable and uncontrollable variables. But with the internet, it’s an order of magnitude easier for hackers who know what they are doing.
A particularly nefarious type of malware, ransomware is a nasty problem that grows bigger each year. A 2019 Malwarebytes study found a 365% increase in business ransomware attacks. And an Infrascale survey from earlier this year revealed that close to half of SMBs have experienced ransomware attacks, and nearly three-quarters of those SMBs have PAID the ransom! Depending on the amount of money demanded, one attack could be an existential crisis for an SMB.
Phishing: This type of attack is delivered via email and typically takes the form of a request for personal and other sensitive information such as credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, and bank account information (hello, mysterious Nigerian prince!). We’ve all seen these in our work and personal inboxes. While many are sloppily done and obvious, others are close replicas of legitimate organizations and require a discerning eye.
Phishing comes in many flavors, and one of the most effective is “spear phishing.” Whereas most phishing attacks are like an email blast you would send to hundreds or thousands of prospects, a spear phishing attack is personalized. Yes, that means the hackers have to do more work to track down names, email addresses, job functions, titles, and other personal information. But that also increases the likelihood that an unsuspecting victim will bite.
A recent and particularly relevant example is a group of Iranian hackers sending threatening emails to voters with the goal of influencing their choices. They ultimately got caught via some mistakes made in the included video, but they had access to public voter registration data, which is…unsettling. Unlike with a traditional phishing attack, which is primarily about getting information like credit card numbers, this incident was more like spear phishing in that it was trying to elicit a response from the victim fueled by malevolent intentions.
Internal threats: Your own employees are also potential threats. In fact, more than a third of data breaches involved internal actors, according to a 2020 Verizon data breach investigation report. Sometimes this is because they are careless or don’t know any better. Other times they do so with criminal intent. A recent example is an employee at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada who was approached by a ransomware group and offered $500,00 to install ransomware on the company’s network. He ultimately went to the FBI with the information, but not every victim is so honest.
Artificial intelligence: A hacker with experience and know-how is a potent security threat. But a hacker armed with AI-powered tools and capabilities? That’s the subject of its own blog post – or series of them – but suffice it to say that such a hacker is his/her own army as opposed to a solo invader.
Let’s stop here, even though there’s plenty more scaring potential out there. And post-COVID, with the greatly increased number of employees working from home and using their own computing devices (aka “endpoints”), the attack surfaces have increased tremendously. Hackers have taken note, and attacks continue to grow apace.
It’s possible to mitigate F.U.D. and make the internet less frightening
Sure, it can be scary out there on the internet. But all is not lost!
While it’s sometimes difficult to determine what is true and what is false on the internet, one thing that is an absolute truth is what has worked in the past to thwart cybersecurity threats doesn’t necessarily work now. The malevolent actors are always looking for weaknesses in business’ security perimeters, and they are frequently successful.
And, while spending more money on cyber security solutions can help fight attacks, this approach does not guarantee that the number of breaches will drop. It’s more about how strategically you spend the money, which solutions you buy, and how expertly they are implemented and managed.
If you do one thing to protect yourself on the internet, do this
While there are many solutions you can buy and many approaches to take when it comes to protecting your data and endpoints, there is one in particular that brings as much bang and protection for the buck as any of them: backup and disaster recovery (BDR).
Investing in BDR focuses on any business’ most coveted asset – its data. A comprehensive solution set like the one Infrascale offers mitigates data loss, data inaccessibility and downtime caused by those with malicious intent, accidents (like employee error), server crashes, and natural disasters. All of these situations come with a price. And the longer they persist, the bigger the bill.
Another “truth” about operating in the age of the internet is that offsite data backup is not enough. To keep the lights on and your business running without costly cybersecurity-caused interruptions, the critical technology infrastructure and business processes that manage your data must also be recovered.
Infrascale’s secret sauce is the combination of intelligent software with the power of the cloud. This potent mix removes the barriers and complexity of secure, offsite data storage and standby infrastructure for real-time disaster recovery. Further, it instills the confidence to handle F.U.D. by providing reliable backup and boot-readiness in minutes – which result in less downtime and faster business recovery.
Don’t be scared. Every haunted house has an exit.
Despite Internet Day’s proximity to Halloween, there is no reason to be scared when it comes to maximizing the internet’s reach to operate and grow your business. Despite the myriad threats and hackers found online, it’s inspiring to see businesses fight back and, in many cases, prevent and fix the damages incurred.
For better or worse, the internet isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it will only become a bigger part of business activity and our personal lives. So, we all need to deal with it and do our best to operate on it as safely and responsibly as possible. The good news is that it’s possible to do just that.
If you’re going to do one thing to commemorate Internet Day this year, face down F.U.D. with the right business and disaster recovery tools for the job. That’s not scary, it’s smart.
Happy Internet Day!