November 2018

Simple Steps to Protect Your Company from Cyber Crime

7 minute read

Cybercrime is a major problem for companies of all types and sizes, and Canadian businesses grapple with many of the same threats as companies in the United States, Europe, and around the world. In fact, according to The Economist Intelligence commissioned by American Express, Canadian business executives believe cyber security is the second most important challenge today.

With an estimated cost of more than $4 million per breach, a strong defense and investment in cyber security is imperative. But even with state-of-the-art systems in place, every employee has a role in protecting your business from cybercrime. Follow along to learn more about how you can best lead the charge to protect your business from a wide range of digital threats.

Where most threats originate

The number two challenge for Canadian businesses is a costly one. According to the Business Reality Check report, the average security breach cost $5.7 million (US$4.3 million). Surprisingly, more than 90 percent of cyber theft starts in a very low-tech way.

A study by digital security firm Cofense found that 91 percent1 of successful cyberattacks start with clicking a bad link in an email. This means human error was a major contributing factor to the vast majority of attacks.

Closing this security hole takes a two-faceted approach. First, it is imperative to train employees on what to look out for in a spam or phishing email. By educating your team on common threats, they will know what to look for in a suspicious email. That may be all it takes to prevent a major breach.

Even with that worker focus, however, your firm can add powerful email spam detectors and filters. Some estimates say that roughly half of all emails are spam2, so keeping them out of employee inboxes is another key step in keeping your data—and your customers' data—safe from criminals online.

Keep everything up to date

On your personal computer or smartphone, you probably see regular pop-up notifications about security updates. Applying those quickly is important, as they may include important software updates to patch vulnerabilities and harden your system's security. Just like you need to keep Windows and Mac up to date, you need to keep key company systems updated on a regular basis.

One of the largest cyber breaches in history took place in 20073 and exposed the personal information of 145.5 million people, of which 19,000 were Canadian.4 Equifax was warned, along with a wide range of businesses, to update its software to keep out attackers. Had Equifax updated its Apache Struts platform as instructed in March, experts say the assailants would have never gained access to the consumer data.

While this was an expensive and difficult lesson for Equifax, your company does not have to become another data breach statistic. Empower your information technology and product teams to work with software vendors to ensure all applications are consistently updated to the most secure possible version.

When you work with reputable third-party vendors and supplies, you know many of your security needs are already covered. In payments, American Express remains at the cutting edge of digital security while maintaining industry-leading customer service.

Invest in the latest cybersecurity solutions

Spam filters and virus protection suites are a given at any business today, but you should take further steps to protect your data from falling into the wrong hands.

Canadian companies are investing in cybersecurity with a growing urgency—67 percent compared to 55 percent worldwide, according to Business Reality Check. Those investments include some exciting emerging technologies like blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

Blockchain creates a distributed ledger that helps fight fraud while speeding up digital transactions. It is already used for a range of purposes, including digital rights management, logistics, and financial applications.

Putting the technology behind digital currencies into your business may improve security and system response times. Approximately 26 percent of Canadian firms already employ blockchain in some capacity. In fact, The Globe and Mail calls Canada a hub for blockchain technology.5

Payment processing is one of the most exciting areas in which blockchain is able to empower quick improvements. As the technology continues to grow within the technology, financial, and logistics industries and beyond, blockchain will have an increasingly positive impact on security and efficiency.

American Express already employs blockchain in its Membership Rewards program for credit card customers, and expects it to grow into other areas of payments in the coming years.

Responding to the biggest business challenges

With cyber breaches grabbing headlines on a regular basis and customers demanding their information be protected, taking cybersecurity seriously is a must.

While there is no 100 percent protection from cyber criminals, the right systems and security practices can greatly reduce your risk. Customers may never know what you do to keep their information safe, but it's far better to invest in security today than end up in a headline later.

When you work with cutting edge, security-centric partners like American Express, you can be assured you're doing what you can to protect your company and your customers.