Like a brick-and-mortar office, your business website houses assets that include your content and email addresses from newsletter subscribers. If you have an e-commerce website, you’ll be storing valuable data such as your customers’ personal information ranging from credit card numbers, birth dates, and mobile phone numbers.
Cyber-criminals know these types of personal information are a gold mine. They are relentless and statistics show that they’ll launch multiple cyber attacks on your website until they get what’s yours.
If your business website isn’t adequately protected from cyber attacks, the losses you’ll incur will go beyond financial.
3 Ways That A Cyber Attack Can Affect Your Business
The financial or economic costs of a cyber attack on a business are well-known. Lesser known are the reputational damage and legal repercussions a cyber attack can have on your enterprise.
Let’s start out with the financial/economic cost of a cyber attack on your business.
1. The Financial/Economic Cost
Once a cyber-criminal successfully breaches through the defenses of your website, he can wreak havoc on your business in the following ways.
- Steal Financial Information – There are types of cyber attacks that are designed to steal valuable financial information such as your company’s and customers’ bank account numbers, credit/debit card numbers, and passwords.
According to a study made by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on cyber attacks, credit card fraud increased by 44.6% from 2019 to 2020.
- Steal Customers’ Confidential Information – In addition to their credit and debit card numbers, customers will give you their email addresses, mobile phone numbers, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other pieces of personal information that are highly confidential in nature.
Once stolen, cyber-criminals can assume the identities of your customers and help themselves to their hard-earned money. Cyber-criminals can also sell confidential information to other parties that can do the dirty work while they reel in the profits.
- Disrupt the Flow of Business – If your business isn’t protected from cyber-attacks, it will have to shut down temporarily until the situation is under control.
Customers who clicked on your URL will see the message “This website is presently undergoing repair and maintenance works. Please try again in 24 hours. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”
Apologies accepted but customers who have needs that have to be fulfilled right away will go to your competitors’ websites.
- Loss of Business Contracts – On a larger scale, if you built a website to carry out specific services for clients and the recent cyber attack compromised their network and put their businesses at risk, don’t expect your clients to stay with you much longer.
- Website Rebuilding Costs – At Mountaintop Web Design, we offer our clients different packages of our Extreme WordPress Care Plan because we understand the cost of having a website rebuilt after it has been attacked.
One of the action plans of our Extreme WordPress Care package is a daily cloud-based backup of your website. This way, in case your website shuts down because of a cyber-attack, we can easily and quickly get it back to working order.
No need to start from scratch and rebuild your website like we’re making a new one.
A study commissioned by Cybersecurity Ventures projected that the global economic cost of cybercrimes will grow from US$6 Trillion in 2021 to US$10.5 Trillion in 2025.
2. Reputational Damage
The damage of a cyber-attack will have long-term, lingering effects on your business. The foundation of relationships with consumers and industrial clients is built on trust.
Once this trust is breached, your relationship with your customers and clients will slowly deteriorate. The situation will only be made worse by social media and other news aggregators on the Internet.
The incidence of cyber-attack won’t be isolated between you and your clients. It will spread throughout the Internet; posted and shared by every person with an Internet connection.
The repercussions of a cyber-attack can result in the following consequences:
- Periodic Decline in Sales – A business that has had the safety of its website compromised by a cyber-attack will carry a stigma on the Internet.
Consumers will think twice before clicking on your URL for fear of having their personal information stolen by hackers. That fear of having their identities stolen will show in your bottom line in the following months.
It will take time to build your reputation back to a point where customers will comfortably and confidently patronize your website.
But by then, you would incur costs to rebuild your website and for marketing and promotional purposes to rebuild your reputation.
- Erosion of Customer Base/Followers – As your reputation suffers, the ones that benefit will be your competitors. Your customer base and followers will look for another business that offers similar products and services.
That’s exactly what your competitors want – an opportunity to showcase their products and services and steal your customers.
All it takes is for one customer to share his experience with your competitor to shine the spotlight on the “Exit Door” for your remaining customer base and followers.
- Collateral Damage – It just won’t be your relationships with customers that will suffer.
Likewise, your business partners and other investors will be affected by the cyber-attack. The incident might trigger a “blame game” as to who’s at fault. The situation will be made worse if the investments are substantial.
Then, there are suppliers and vendors who have receivables to collect from you. Because sales have suffered, your ability to settle payments has been compromised.
3. Legal Repercussions
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), out of 194 countries, 137 countries have data protection laws in place.
A common feature of these data protection and privacy laws is that businesses are held accountable for the information provided to them by customers, other businesses, and their employees.
In the event that these types of data are stolen whether as a deliberate act or as an accident and the business failed to deploy adequate security measures and data recovery actions, the business will face sanctions that range from fines, penalties, and a suspension of operations.
The fines and penalties can be stiff and weigh heavily on the business. In the United Kingdom, the monetary penalties for failure to comply with the provisions of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can reach 6 figures.
For many businesses that can’t afford the penalties, they will just shut down operations.
Then, there are lawsuits from consumers.
Class action lawsuits are a popular course of action taken by victims of cyber-crime. Since it’s difficult to find the culprits of the cyber-attack, the victims will attempt to seek compensation from the business establishment that was hacked.
The legal position taken by the participants in the class-action lawsuit is that the business website had inadequate web security protocols in place and this resulted in the site getting hacked and their personal information stolen.
The costs of putting up a legal defense against the class action lawsuit will further drain you financially.
How To Protect Your Website From Cyber-Attacks
Now that you know the repercussions of a cyber-attack on your website, you must take the necessary steps to ensure that you won’t be a victim to hackers and scammers.
1. Have Your Emails Encrypted
If you provide company emails to your employees, incorporate spam filtering technology in your email server. This way, the server can immediately identify suspicious emails and have them removed from your Inbox.
Once your email is sent and goes from browser to server, it can be intercepted by programs that are hiding in the server. Emails that are encrypted will be hard for cyber-criminals to intercept.
For this reason, we always recommend to our clients to get Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) certificates for their websites. SSL encrypts the information that’s transmitted from your website.
You know that a website is protected by SSL certificates if you can see the padlock icon before the URL or if it’s preceded by “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP”. If your website doesn’t have SSL certificates, Google will flag it as “Not Secure”.
2. Create Awareness of Cyber-Attacks
Some entrepreneurs don’t think they’ll become a victim of cyber-crime – until they become a statistic. If you don’t take cyber-crime seriously, neither will your employees.
Talk to your employees about cyber-attacks and how they can damage the business. Like we did in this article, show them actual statistics and present real case studies on businesses that became victims of cyber-crime.
Prepare a cyber-attack response plan and discuss it in detail with your employees. Everyone should know what to do the second an attack has been detected. The first few steps – how to mitigate the damage and document the attack – are crucial.
Likewise, establishing the chain of communication is important. All team members, especially you, the business owner, should know that a cyber-attack has just taken place.
3. Use a Strong Password Management System
Not all password management systems are the same. Some only save your passwords so you don’t have to memorize them whenever you log into your network.
There are password management systems that include password protection features such as Keeper, Bitwarden, and LogMeOnce. These programs are designed to give hackers a hard time trying to steal your passwords because they include multi-factor authentication or a random password generator.
4. Fortify Your Cyber-Attack Defense Systems
So you bought the most expensive, most awarded antivirus software program in the market. Don’t get complacent and believe that your website’s hacking defense is the Fort Knox of the Internet.
Cybercriminals will always try to stay ahead of the latest antivirus programs. They will study these programs and find ways to overcome them. The developers of antivirus software know this. That’s why they issue reminders on the availability of the latest versions.
If you receive a notification from the developer that the latest version of your antivirus software is available, click on it right away and download the updated version right away.
Include control/restriction measures in your network that prohibits employees from accessing unauthorized websites.
5. Remove Unused Plugins and Update Old Plugins
Cyber-criminals can breach your website security systems through your unused and outdated plugins.
Think of how a virus that enters your body grows into a full-scale infection. The virus latches on to a cell and changes its structure to allow the virus to survive and thrive in the new environment – your body.
If you have a WordPress website, you’ll be getting frequent notifications that the latest versions of the plugins currently installed on the website are available. Assuming the plugins are frequently used by your team, update them right away. If not, remove them from your business website.
6. Backup Data Regularly
Regularly backing up your data is an important step in protecting your website from cyber-attacks.
At the very least, if a cyber-attack renders your website inoperable, you can retrieve data as far back as the last data points that you and your employees saved.
It might be advisable to back up data frequently, not just regularly. If an employee is about to take a break, he should back up data before logging out of his computer.
The 6 tips that we shared on how to protect your business website from cyber-attacks are preventive measures and won’t stop an aggressive assault launched by a determined hacker.
While you should have the measures discussed in this article in place, it would be best to entrust the protection of your website to experts in cybersecurity. The risks of not having your business website adequately protected are too high that cybersecurity must be a priority.
To make an analogy, if you have CCTVs installed on your brick-and-mortar retail store, what can you do if thieves wearing masks break inside your outlet and steal your items?
Nothing. Your valuables will be gone for good. You won’t be able to track down the culprits.
But if you hire an expert to design the security system of your retail store, he might include an automatic alert to the police or mall security, install an automatic door locking system that traps the thieves inside the premises, or have a feature that sprays indelible ink that stays for days.
Clients who have signed up with our Extreme WordPress Care plans are able to sleep at night without having to worry about their websites getting hacked or compromised by cyber-criminals.
Our Extreme WordPress Care plans include daily cloud backups of your site, plugin updates, and regular security monitoring.
You can read what our clients have to say about our Extreme WordPress Care plans. Go back and read the ways a cyber-attack can affect your business. You’ll agree with our clients that signing up for one of the Extreme WordPress Care packages is a great investment.
If you’re interested in learning more about our Extreme WordPress Care packages give us a call or drop us an email.
And if you found this article informative, feel free to share it with someone who will benefit from our knowledge and experience.