Top 7 cyber security threats to businesses (and protection tips)

Every day there is a war raging on behind your computer screen. Online security risks are ramping up, and cybercriminals are finding increasingly sophisticated ways to get into your business’ network or steal your personal data. And cyber security professionals are equally finding ways to stop their attacks.

Cyber security threats are malicious attempts to illegally access data, disrupt digital operations or corrupt information. They can come from many sources, including hackers, terrorist groups and corporate spies.

Over 76,000 cybercrime incidents were reported in Australia within an annual period to June 2022 – an increase of 13% from the year before, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Threat Report. This equates to one report every 7 minutes.

Needless to say, this is highly concerning if you’re a small business owner, and you are probably scouring the Internet trying to understand what you are up against.

We explore the top cyber security threats facing your small business and explain some ways you can protect your business against them.

1. Malware

Malware refers to malicious software, such as Ransomware, spyware, viruses, and worms. Malware activates when a user clicks on malicious links or attachments, which can lead to the installation of harmful software. It can be used to:

  • Block access to critical networks
  • Install more harmful software
  • covertly access information by sending data from your hard drive to the cybercriminal
  • cause the system to be inoperable by destroying individual components

2. Ransomware

While Ransomware is a form of malware, it has become such a problem that it deserves its own section.

Cybercriminals can trick you into downloading malware onto your system or accessing malicious links to get control of the device and files. Users are then denied access to their files and devices by attackers who encrypt or lock them.

From there, the cybercriminals hold the data or hijacked the service in exchange for a ransom payment.

3. DDoS attack

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a network security threat that occurs when cybercriminals attempt to flood a targeted server or network with unwanted traffic. Cybercriminals achieve this by compromising multiple computer systems, usually through malware and overwhelming a specific network. The targeted network’s service soon starts to slow down or becomes unavailable.

4. Social engineering attacks

Social engineering attacks are malicious actions carried out through human interaction. It employs psychological manipulation to get users to make security slip-ups or accidentally give away sensitive information.

Multiple steps are usually taken to perpetrate social engineering attacks. The cybercriminal investigates the victim to collect the necessary background information, such as possible entry points and security weaknesses. The attacker then moves to win the victim’s trust, sending engineered content that is designed to get the victim to give access to information.

Phishing attacks, which are usually done through email, are a common type of social engineering cybercrime incidents.

In phishing attacks, the targets are contacted by someone pretending to be from an official company or organisation to lure potential victims into providing sensitive information, banking and credit card details, and passwords.

5. SQL Injection

Structured Query Language Injection (SQL) is a cyber attack that involves inserting malicious code onto a server that uses SQL. The server will release information if it is infected. It is as easy as typing the malicious code into a search box on a vulnerable website.

6. Insider Threats

An Insider threat is any threat that an organisation’s internal stakeholder (such as an employee) poses to the organisation. To fulfil their purpose, an employee might intentionally leak information that is valuable to the business. Unintentional actions can also lead to the leakage of valuable information. This can occur by leaving devices unattended or without password protection.

7. Brute force attacks

Brute force attacks use trial and error to hack into devices through encryption keys and password protectors. Hackers try to guess the correct combination to your private accounts using ‘brute force’ using manual methods.

Although this is an old method of attack, it’s still very popular among hackers. It can take between a few seconds and many years to crack a password depending on its complexity and length.

How businesses can protect themselves

While there are many cyber threats to look out for, there are also many things small business owners can do to protect their data and networks.

1. Keep your software up-to-date

One way to keep on top of the latest protections is to program your operating system to automatically update security software. Updates can contain security updates for recent attacks and viruses. Many updates let you schedule updates after hours or at a more convenient time. You should consider never ignoring updates as they can fix serious security issues.

2. Install security software

To prevent malware from accessing your valuable data, install security software on all your devices and computers. Anti-virus, antispyware, and anti-spam software may want to be installed across all devices, as malware can infect computers, laptops, and mobile devices.

3. Install a firewall

A firewall is a software or hardware that connects your computer to the Internet. It is the gateway for all outgoing and incoming traffic. A firewall can help protect your company’s internal networks. However, they must be maintained and updated regularly. Make sure to put the firewall on all portable devices.

4. Your spam filters should be turned on

Spam filters can be used to reduce the number of spam and phishing emails that your company receives. Spam and Phishing emails can infect your computer or steal your private information. It is best to delete spam and phishing email messages. Spam filters can help to reduce the chances of your employees opening spam or dishonest emails accidentally.

5. Consider cyber insurance

While it won’t prevent an attack, Cyber Liability insurance is an important component of any good cyber security business plan.

This type of business insurance protects your business against both the legal costs and expenses related to cybercrime incidents. Your coverage may generally include cover for expenses and restoration costs relating to the following:

  • Data breaches including theft or loss of client information
  • Network security breaches
  • Business interruption costs
  • Forensic investigation into the cause or scope of a breach
  • Data recovery costs
  • Cyber extortion
  • Crisis management costs (to protect or mitigate damage to your businesses reputation resulting from a cyber event)
  • Loss and legal costs, including fines and penalties resulting from a third party claim for data or network security breach against your company


A cybersecurity attack can cause serious damage to your business reputation and finances no matter if you are a sole trader or listed on the ASX200.

From ransomware viruses to social engineering and insider threats, there is plenty of risk in the cyber landscape that threaten to derail your small business.

While knowing what threats you are up against is essential to the survival of your small business, it is only half the battle.

Having a good cyber security management plan in place that includes comprehensive Cyber Liability insurance can protect your business in the long run. It will allow you to mitigate cyber security risks in real time so your business can live to fight another day.

This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording.
© 2022 BizCover Pty Limited, all rights reserved. ABN 68 127 707 975; AFSL 501769
ABN 68 127 707 975; AFSL 501769

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