The end of the financial year is upon us again. For many businesses, it’s the busiest time of year. Many executives are busy getting financial records up to date, not to mention planning budgets for the year ahead. But, whilst you’re busily focusing on reports and spreadsheets, cyber attackers are focusing their attention on you!

Criminals know that at the precise time when you’re busiest, there’s a good chance you’ll let your guard down. All it takes is one deceptive email containing a malicious link or attachment, and your business could be facing a devastating cyber security breach this EOFY.

That’s why EOFY business security is critical. It is the perfect time to think seriously about your organisation’s cyber security maturity. Ask yourself:

• Do I have the right security controls in place?

• How would I respond to a cyber incident?

• What impact would a breach have on my business continuity?

As we approach the EOFY, consider the following 7 business cyber security tips. These cyber security tips for small business are particularly important – as they are often less prepared than larger organisations. These will help get you onto the right path for the year ahead.

7 ways to increase business security this EOFY

1. Assess your cyber risk profile

How exposed is your business to a range of cyber risks?

You need to consider the security of your organisation’s network and applications, including any third-party applications you have integrated into your environment. You should also have security controls around all your critical data. Make sure you have an incident response plan in place, so in the event of a breach, your business can quickly resume operations. Furthermore, you need to have controls in place to mitigate the risks of malware and ransomware.

There are many things to consider when developing a comprehensive cyber security strategy for your organisation. And because each business is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

The first step is to have a comprehensive assessment of your cyber risk profile. This will help you identify:

• Your current cyber maturity level.

• Your optimal cyber maturity level.

• What activities and investments will help you achieve your optimal outcome.

2. Educate yourself and employees

Education and training are among the most effective initiatives you can take to prevent many cyber attacks.

All too often we see cyber breaches that have occurred due to simple human error. Cyber criminals understand this and are constantly seeking ways to exploit the people in target organisations.

Typically, email is the Achilles heel for most businesses. Cyber criminals attempt to deceive staff into clicking malicious links or opening dangerous attachments. When staff fall for the deception, it can result in malware being executed in your environment. Threat actors may breach your defences, compromise your critical data and even launch devastating ransomware attacks.

Providing your team with ongoing cyber security awareness training will ensure they have the knowledge and skills to avoid attempts to deceive them.

3. Conduct regular security testing

Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing are essential cyber security activities that you should be undertaking on a regular basis.

All too often, hidden vulnerabilities exist in an organisation’s network security or application layer. Many of these vulnerabilities, or bugs, are well known. With regular scanning, they can be identified and patched.

There are of course, less well-known vulnerabilities too. Some of these may never have been discovered before. These are known as ‘zero days.’ With manual penetration testing, experts will interrogate your systems to try and uncover those vulnerabilities that are particularly hard to identify.

With organisations regularly extending their network, introducing new applications to their environment, or updating existing applications, penetration testing should be conducted on a frequent basis to ensure business security. Cyber criminals are well-aware of common bugs and will regularly try to exploit them in order to breach your defences. Penetration testing helps you stay one step ahead of the threats.

4. Audit stored data

All too often, businesses fail to recognise the value of the data in their possession. However, cyber criminals know very well that data can have immense value.

Securing your organisation’s corporate, customer, financial, employee and product data, must be near the top of your list of cyber priorities. That’s because it is one of the main reasons cyber criminals are seeking to penetrate your systems.

Data theft earns criminals big returns, either by selling it on the dark web, or by encrypting it and forcing you to pay a ransom so you can resume business operations.

The first step in securing your data is to audit what you have. Consider the impact that a data loss would have on your business operations and how much replacing it would cost.

Also, it’s important to recognise that not all data is critical. Categorise data so you know what is critical and make sure it is secured to the highest level. You may even have data in your systems that is redundant and can be discarded.

5. Create a plan for cyber attacks

When a cyber attack strikes, the last thing you want is pandemonium, with nobody knowing how to respond. In the event of a cyber incident, every second counts. If you can respond rapidly, you stand a good chance of halting the attack before too much damage occurs.

That’s why you need a comprehensive cyber attack, or incident response, plan.

With ongoing monitoring of your systems, you should be able to prevent, or identify an attack in its early stages. You need to have a team ready to act as quickly as possible at the first sign of a breach.

You should also ensure you have backed-up all your critical data to devices that are disconnected from your main business systems. This will be essential to help your organisation resume operations quickly in the aftermath of an attack.

6. Be hypervigilant at tax time

The ATO is warning organisations that cyber criminals are out in force in the lead up to the EOFY.

This is the busiest time of the year for many businesses. There’s always a last-minute rush to complete reports, update spreadsheets and lodge documents with tax advisors or the ATO. In the rush, it’s all too easy to make simple mistakes, such as clicking on a malicious link or opening a dangerous attachment.

Cyber criminals know that when you’re busy, you are much more likely to make such mistakes. That is the reason we see a spike in reports of cyber attacks at this time of year. Tax time business security is more important than ever.

Make sure you reinforce good cyber practices among your team. Remind them regularly to never click on suspicious emails and when in doubt, to escalate the matter to your IT or cyber security team.

7. Consult a cyber security training company

Engaging cyber security experts to train your team is among the most cost-effective ways to secure your organisation from cyber attacks.

Phriendly Phishing is trusted by businesses around Australia to educate staff in identifying and avoiding dangerous email threats. Our interactive training modules are designed to engage all levels of staff with easy-to-learn security strategies.

Your team will understand the range of threats and the tricks attackers use to deceive people. They will be armed with the skills they need to pinpoint the signs that a cyber attacker is trying to manipulate them into doing something risky.

Phriendly Phishing’s approach is that cyber awareness is not a one-time activity. It requires ongoing training, with the ability to identify which members of your team may require a bit more assistance. That’s why we have developed a training cadence that includes ongoing tests, to make sure important lessons are not forgotten.

Contact Phriendly Phishing today for a demonstration of our approach to securing your organisation.

Key Takeaways

As we can see, there are many things to consider when planning your organisation’s security posture. The end of the financial year is the ideal time to plan those online business security tips that will help you stay secure now and into the future.