Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, hacking activity has increased sharply. According to Peter Marvo, an Estonian cybersecurity expert, it is now high time for companies to close security gaps in their websites and e-shops. How do hackers choose who to attack and how to make your company as unattractive as possible before it is too late?
Hackers will go where there is the least resistance
Expert Marvo calls to be aware that all companies operating in countries that support Ukraine or are part of NATO are currently at particular risk of cyberattacks.
What can a company do now to protect itself? P. Marvo points out that much of what can be done is easy to implement and what security experts have been talking about for years, i.e., strong passwords, well-protected accounts, and up-to-date systems.
He also reveals the main criteria that drive a hacker to spend his time hacking a website in the first place. "First and foremost, a hacker will consider how much work they have to spend hacking. If your business is poorly protected, it will likely be one of the first to suffer."
Hackers risk their time and money. So, if access to the system or the ability to work there for a long time is difficult, they will prefer an easier target. The most important criterion, of course, is how much the hacker benefits from your site. The more access to various data, the more attractive it will be for him.
E-commerce sites are a particularly desirable target
It should be noted that hackers are full-time employees who work at least eight hours a day, are experienced, and have a wide range of tools at their disposal. In other words, they are professionals who should not be underestimated.
What to do in case of a cyber attack?
- Immediately inform the company’s security or IT experts
- Report the attack to the company CERT.LV
- Report it to the police, calling 110
- Do not arbitrarily contact the scammer by SMS, letter or phone
For example, a hacker can send spam mail to any ordinary corporate website, use it to attack other websites, or generate cryptocurrencies. It is e-commerce websites that open up many opportunities for hackers, as they are full of various valuable data.
According to P. Marvo, one of the main goals of hackers on e-commerce websites is to obtain credit card data and possibly, the personal data of customers. Fraudulent transactions with so-called prepaid cards are also common. It is less common, but there are also cases of extortion, where hackers demand payment in exchange for a promise not to disclose sensitive information.
A common method used by hackers is scanning sites for security vulnerabilities - weak applications or other components.
Even a password sent in an email can be “deadly”
Passwords remain one of the vulnerabilities of many companies, allowing hackers to successfully use a variety of methods, from easy-to-remember variants such as "company name123" to attempting to log in with leaked emails and passwords.
P. Marvo offers one piece of advice, “Remember that we live in a time of war – if you are not sure about the security of your password, change it immediately. The rule to go by is that the password should not be easy to crack – even three random words can be a sufficient password, provided it is not used anywhere else. It is very important to increase protection by using two-level authorisation. In this case, your access rights must be confirmed in other ways in addition to the password.”
He points out a mistake made by many – shared accounts and sharing passwords electronically. In these cases, passwords are often forwarded to other users via email, and this is an opportunity for hackers to intercept them.
Account sharing is also a bad idea from a security perspective, as it is difficult to track who has been on an account. It is important to delete the access of employees who no longer work for the company to reduce the risk of data falling into the wrong hands.
Security is highly dependent on the choice of counterparties
The most important thing is not to be among the 10-30% of the most vulnerable companies, because they are the most exposed to the risk of cyberattacks,” stresses the expert. Websites that change the code, such as the popular Wordpress, are easier to crack.
It is very important for e-merchants to use secure, globally recognised payment systems with good fraud protection and to ensure that payment information is entered on the website without any special data. Another advantage of a secure payment system is the possibility for the company to highlight it in its marketing activities.
Recommendations for improving the company’s cyber security
- Two-factor or two-step authentication for systems
- Implementing an automatic password reset prompt
- Changing system passwords on a regular basis, e.g., quarterly
- Conducting internal phishing attacks on a regular basis to vet employees
- Performing regular system updates
- Verifying the veracity of information when receiving an email
- Do not open suspicious emails
- Do not open suspicious links
- Do not share data with third parties
- Providing training to employees
P. Marvo reveals that hackers often target the customers of a slower hosting provider. So, it is important that you do not put the hosting of your website or store in the hands of a provider that offers the lowest price.
He also points out that it is always much cheaper to prevent an attack than to try to fight an incident that has already happened. However, if an attack does occur, it is important to ensure that the company's systems are maintained by knowledgeable and responsive professionals who can prevent the consequences and ensure that hackers cannot easily return.
In the event of a successful attack, personal data may be lost, the company's reputation may suffer, and the company may suffer financial losses. In the event of a serious cyberattack, a company may not be able to "recover" and suspend operations if minimum security requirements are not met.