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Protect Your Business from Ongoing Cyberattacks

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Far-Reaching Disruptions Follow Data Breaches in Optometry and Agriculture Industries

Cyberattacks were reported in two very different industries last month, highlighting the ongoing risk of digital disruptions for businesses and consumers.

First, Delaware-based Simon Eye Management, a chain of clinics that provides eye exams, eyeglasses, and optometry evaluations, reported a hack that occurred in May 2021 and exposed the private health information of more than 144,000 individuals. New Jersey-based USV Optical Inc., a division of US Vision, also reported a breach that compromised servers and systems at the company, along with the private health information of another 175,000 patients, between April 20 and May 17, 2021.

Since both companies operate in the patient-facing optometry industry, they had to report these breaches to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The details of the Simon attack were particularly revealing: after an attempted business email compromise, a type of targeted email scam that claims to come from real contacts at a company, an unauthorized third party accessed employee email accounts. After trying (and failing) to initiate fake wire transfers or invoice payments, the hackers instead stole patients’ private health records.

Cybersecurity experts said those records could include patient names, addresses medical histories, treatment or diagnosis details, health insurance information, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and financial account numbers. The expectation is that this data will end up for sale on the dark web sooner rather than later, making this breach particularly severe for individuals.

In a decidedly different industry, two major agricultural companies reported ransomware attacks that some cybersecurity experts are describing as extreme. Iowa-based service provider New Cooperative and Minnesota-based farm supply business Crystal Valley Cooperative were hit by ransomware attacks just days apart in September. Although these attacks didn’t compromise the information of individuals or consumers, company executives stressed that both could cause significant disruptions to supply chains for grain, pork, and chicken—especially since they occurred during the Midwest’s busy harvest season.

The New Cooperative attack shut down the company’s entire IT system and encrypted all of its data; just days later, a ransomware group called BlackMatter claimed responsibility (and released proof on the dark web), demanding a $5.9 million ransom to release the company’s information. No group had claimed responsibility as of press time for the ransomware attack on Crystal Valley Cooperative, which locked all corporate servers and prevented the company from processing credit card payments.

What do these four attacks mean for businesses in other industries?

They highlight the fact that any company in any industry is at risk—in fact, nearly two in five attacks in 2021 have hit small to medium-sized businesses. Also, different kinds of attacks can have different impacts, depending on their rules of engagement and details of execution. That’s why comprehensive, multi-layered cybersecurity protection is so important. Below are some of the most important components of that kind of strategy.

1. Back up your data regularly, remotely, and redundantly.

Most ransomware attacks can be mitigated or averted with one reliable strategy: data backup versions that automatically execute at a certain time each day and are then securely transmitted from company computers to remote physical and cloud-based locations and stored in multiple locations to minimize the threat of data failure. The next most important step is testing the availability of those backups so that data recovery protocols can roll out if an attack occurs.

2. Educate employees about the threat from business email compromise.

Your staff members usually make up the first line of cybersecurity defenses—but they can’t protect their information if they don’t know what they’re looking for. Ongoing education about phishing and spoofing scams, ransomware tactics, and other illicit schemes can help your staff recognize an attack before it impacts your business. This builds overall cyber resilience for your entire organization.

3. Don’t click on links or open attachments in suspect emails.

This is where the aforementioned cybersecurity education comes in handy. If employees are on the lookout for spoofed emails or unusual requests, they’ll also know to look for misspelled addresses, long strings of random characters where a standard URL should go, and unexpected attachments that, if opened, can instantly install ransomware or other viruses on computers.

4. Use multi-factor authentication for all login credentials.

Multi-factor authentication requires users to log in with something they know (their password) and something they have (typically a unique code delivered by text or a second login confirmation via a thumbprint or other push notification). This extra step may take a few seconds, but multi-factor authentication can neutralize a stolen password and provide more robust protection of your company’s important information.

5. Partner with a trusted IT provider to deploy regular software updates and security patches.

Many cybersecurity scams take advantage of vulnerabilities or holes in operating systems and software packages. If you’ve got outdated applications on your computer or still use a legacy OS like Windows 7, you could lose money and time to hackers thanks to their ever-changing attempts to steal your data.

Worried about ransomware attempts or data breaches? Work in an industry that has been targeted in recent cyberattacks? CMIT Solutions is here to help. We build multiple layers of security around your data, devices, and identities, delivering comprehensive IT protection to keep your business safe. Our deep knowledge of the evolving cybersecurity landscape gives your company the leverage it needs to avoid embarrassing and costly disruptions. Contact us today to find out more.


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