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8 Cyber Security Challenges and Issues for Businesses

Cyber attacks are expected to cost businesses across the world $9.5 trillion or €10.23 trillion in 2024, up 19% from 2023. The “cybercrime industry” is steaming toward its projected net worth of $10.5 trillion by 2025. 

The losses to cyber attacks come in many forms – direct financial losses through theft, penalties levied by regulatory bodies, lost revenue due to business downtime, loss of reputation, and ransom, among other things. 

More than 72% of organizations around the world faced ransomware attacks last year. There is no doubt that many companies will deal with different modes of cyber threat in 2024 and the years to come. Nevertheless, organizations can significantly alleviate the impact of cybercrime by formulating a cyber security strategy that protects the most important attack surfaces. Building awareness of the cyber security challenges an organization is likely to face is the first step in the strategy-building process.

What is a cyber security issue?

An event or a situation that poses a threat to the security of an organization’s information systems, networks, and data, can be defined as a cyber security issue. A cyber security issue may threaten a business by compromising confidential data, disrupting operations, negating access to legitimate users, and granting access to malicious actors.

In the sections that follow, we shall look at some critical cybersecurity issues and challenges that organizations across the world are likely to face in the months to come.

➡️Related: Cyber Security Checklist for Businesses

8 Cybersecurity Challenges to Businesses in 2024

From the discovery of the “Mother of All Breaches” (MOAB) database containing 26 billion stolen records to the attacks on government websites of NATO countries by Russian hacktivists, the list of targeted cyberattacks goes on. While small and mid-sized businesses may not be in the crosshairs of major cybercriminal activities, their biggest cybersecurity challenges appear in the following forms.

Ransomware attacks

Ransomware are malicious software designed to encrypt and lock computer systems and data so that legitimate users lose access to them. A ransom is demanded by the malicious actors in exchange for the decryption key, hence the name. Ransomware attacks are now used for two-pronged extortion. First, the hackers take ransom in exchange for unlocking the encrypted systems and then they extort a second ransom by threatening to expose data stolen during the attack.

The direct financial loss of paying the ransom aside, the disruption of business operations during the ransomware attack, the loss of data, and the ensuing reputation loss can devastate a business.

Ransomware-as-a-Service or RaaS gangs have run amuck in Europe as well as in North America over the past few years. The education sector has been one of the most targeted areas as far as ransomware attacks go. The education sector faced 15% of all known attacks in the UK between June 2022 and May 2023 and the trend continues. 

How does a ransomware attack take place?

Ransomware infection can take place in many different ways.

  1. By clicking on a malicious link
  2. Inadvertently downloading a malicious attachment
  3. Visiting a malware-infested website
  4. Using an infected piece of hardware (a flash drive, for instance)
  5. Injected by malicious actors through the exploitation of existing security vulnerabilities in the target system.

Once the payload enters the target system, it scrambles the files using encryption to make them inaccessible to the user.

The malware announces itself through the computer screen informing that the files are taken hostage and will be released on the payment of ransom.

The target is then threatened in an attempt to force a quick decision. More often than not the attackers steal data despite being paid and extort more money or create perpetual backdoors into the system for further attacks.    

How to prevent ransomware attacks?

1. Maintain safe browsing habits 

Certain habits can help you stay off malicious websites which in turn reduces the possibility of getting infected by ransomware or any other type of malware for that matter.

  • Avoid visiting any website that is not protected by the HTTPS protocol or is flagged by your browser as unsafe
  • Avoid clicking on links received from unknown sources
  • Do not download files without verifying their origin
  • Keep your browser and extensions up to date.  

 2. Use anti-virus and anti-malware 

These software work like the first line of defense for your computer system. An antivirus maintains a database of identifiers for known malware; it may also use certain heuristics to identify malicious behavior by a piece of software. Anti-virus aims to shield your system from known and emerging malware, including ransomware. Anti-malware helps you locate and clean up existing malware in your computer.

3. Keep all software updated

With every update, a piece of software patches certain bugs, and sometimes these bugs include security vulnerabilities. Not updating your software versions as soon as a patch is released is a surefire way of getting caught in a mass cyberattack against vulnerable systems. 

4. Create backups

Having critical data backed up takes a lot of the leverage away from the attackers. Loss of data stops being a concern which buys you some time to get professional help. 

Advanced Phishing

Social engineering is a tactic of human manipulation aimed at coercing an individual into performing an action or revealing some information. In the world of cyber crimes, social engineering can take many forms such as phishing, tailgating, honeytrap, and watering hole. Here’s a detailed guide on different types of social engineering attacks and how to prevent them. 

Phishing is one of the most popular types of social engineering attacks. The word is a play on fishing. It is the process of manipulating unsuspecting individuals into divulging sensitive information or taking self-harming actions through fraudulent communication made by impersonating trusted entities.   

Phishing schemes can be further categorized based on the target and the approach. For instance, well-researched phishing attempts that target high-level executives is often termed as whaling. Similarly, phishing schemes that use doctored voice calls to create fraudulent communication are called vishing.

Thanks to generative AI, the easy availability of grammatically accurate content, and deep fake technology, phishing today is much ahead of what it used to be earlier. 

  • Hackers can generate accurate content that can emulate the style and vocabulary of any individual.
  • Usual markers of fake communication like spelling errors and grammatical inaccuracies have become obsolete.
  • Fake websites built by hackers are more and more convincing. 

How to prevent phishing attacks?

Safe browsing habits are just as important in this case as well. If the employees of an organization consciously avoid shady places on the internet and keep an eye out for suspicious communication, half the job is done. Nevertheless, there’s much more you can do.

1. Stronger passwords 

Credential theft is one of the main goals of phishing attacks. Once a malicious actor acquires your email, they can use brute-force into your accounts. If you use the same password for multiple accounts, one hacked account can compromise every other account. Users can make it harder for cybercriminals by adopting strong passwords. A strong password has at least 12 characters of different types in a random sequence.   

2. Use of password manager

A good password manager can take the hassle out of creating and maintaining strong passwords. Enterprise-grade password managers like Uniqkey can not only create and store strong passwords, but also enable auto-login for employees using zero-knowledge proof. It takes phishing completely out of the equation. 

3. 2FA and MFA

Two-factor Authentication and Multi factor authentication add a layer of protection to password-protected accounts. Enabling 2FA and MFA for work-place apps as well as personal applications is a must for the prevention of phishing. 

4. Training employees to recognize phishing 

Employees across the board need to be able to tell real communication from fraudulent communication. All users of the enterprise network should understand the basic markers of phishing, there should be very clear protocol for reporting such issues, and security practices must be embedded into the organization’s culture so that any type social engineering attempt is easily spotted and countered. 

Third-party exposure

Distributing certain chunks of a company’s workload across third-party contractors may reduce cost and increase efficiency. But this type of dependency also opens up businesses to cybersecurity challenges. 95% of third-party services have privileged access to their clients’ networks. Targeting such service providers creates opportunities for hackers to create backdoors into larger companies. 

For instance, around March 2023, LinkedIn reported a data breach that affected 700 million users. The hackers gained access to sensitive personally identifiable data by breaching a third-party contractor used by the company. 

You’d find more such instances if you went through the list of recent cyber attacks in Europe.

How to avoid third-party exposure?

1. Network segmentation

Network segmentation isolates an attack and contains it in one subnetwork before it can spread across the entire network. So, even in the case of a third-party breach, the impact on the organization is controlled.  

2. Vetting the service providers

Ensuring the service providers are compliant with relevant security standards is very important when it comes to alleviating the risk of third-party exposure. 

3. Look for vulnerability assessment certificates

Service providers that can showcase evidence of regular security testing such as a penetration testing certificate should be sought after.

Cloud Security Breaches

As businesses move to containerized and serverless cloud resources, attackers will target these relatively new infrastructures. Organizations need a security-first approach to cloud adoption. There can be issues related to configuration, excessive privileges, and of course, human error, that can lead to major cloud security breaches. Breaches at the cloud provider’s end can also create a ripple effect affecting cloud service users.

How to circumnavigate cloud security challenges?

Cloud security is managed through a shared responsibility model where the cloud service provider is responsible for securing the underlying cloud infrastructure, the hardware, and the virtualization whereas the cloud user is liable for data security, and the security of the applications running in the cloud.

That means, the user needs to take care of access control, perform identity management, and ensure that all software is patched and up to date. Hence, if a data breach is linked to any misstep on the part of the user, it will incur legal repercussions. 

1. Vulnerability management

Scanning the cloud environment for weaknesses and configuration errors regularly is a must. Organizations need to categorize vulnerabilities, prioritize the critical ones, and fix them as early as possible. 

2. Strong access control

Multifactor authentication is essential for secure cloud usage. Companies should look for ways to monitor and moderate access. They should also keep an eye on instances of shadow IT where employees use cloud-based tools that are not vetted or sanctioned by the IT department. A dedicated Shadow IT monitoring system can be very useful in this regard. 

3. Identity management and the principle of least privilege

Access to resources should be granted only when needed and revoked immediately after the purpose is served. The principle of least privilege where employees function with essential access only can save companies from escalated attacks. With remote work becoming the norm, identity management is crucial for businesses.

Vulnerable personal devices

The reliance on personal devices is 39% to 87% depending on the sector. It is safe to say that personal mobile devices are a core component of the BYOD culture that is on the rise across industries. Unfortunately, security practices in the workplace are rarely translated into personal devices, especially mobile phones. Therefore, phones and laptops owned by employees often pose severe challenges to the overall security posture of an organization.

  • There can be data theft or leakage if a personal device is stolen or lost.
  • A victim of a phishing attack can compromise the entire workplace network that they access with their personal device.
  • There may be applications with security weaknesses that can affect the organizational network.
  • Maintaining compliance becomes challenging with BYOD in practice, especially in some sectors.

How to avoid security threats posed by personal devices?

It is very hard to maintain a flawless security posture in an organization that allows the use of personal devices to access corporate data, especially amidst the constantly evolving threat landscape. Nevertheless, there are security measures to mitigate some of the risks.

1. Use a strong access management system

A competent access management system ensures vigilance over the accessing habits of employees. It can also be used to grant or revoke access centrally whenever there is a need.

2. Use of 2FA and MFA

Multifactor authentication takes the sting away from most security challenges related to human error. It protects sensitive data even in the case of password theft.

3. Clear protocol for personal device usage

 Employees should know what not to access with their mobile devices. They should be trained to maintain security best practices like logging out of the corporate network the moment they are done. And they should have clear instructions for situations like device theft or malware infection. having a remote wipe capability that allows you to remove all corporate data from a stolen device may come in handy.

4. Use of antivirus, firewall, and encryption

Whether an employee uses a company-provided computer or a personal device, all equipment should be protected with strong security measures. The use of firewalls and antivirus should be compulsory. And all data going in and out of a device should be encrypted.  

IoT Attacks

When an attacker targets vulnerabilities in the interconnected devices or Internet of Things (IoT devices) like smart home appliances, industrial control systems, medical devices, wearables, and even vehicles, it is called an IoT attack. 

IoT attacks can take the form of denial of service, botnet infection, malware infection, and data theft. Not all IoT devices come with strong security measures or get regular security updates. Hence, IoT becomes an easy target for hackers. 

How to prevent IoT attacks?

1. Choose devices with strong inherent security

Devices that require strong passwords and are 2FA-enabled are less risky. It is important to keep the software up to date and make sure the makers of the device maintain a firm security posture.

2. Use a secure Wi-Fi connection 

A secure wi-fi connection is essential at the workplace as well as at home. It ensures that the devices connected to the wi-fi are not corrupted by exploiting a vulnerable connection.

3. Use data mindfully

IoT devices collect, store, and utilize user data for different purposes. Be mindful while sharing the data. It is wise to share no data unless it is necessary for the functionality of the device.

Lack of regular vulnerability assessment

Businesses need to have a clear picture of their entire security posture. They should be aware of the potential targets and stay on top of existing and emerging security vulnerabilities. Not having vulnerability assessment as an integral part of business operations can trigger certain security challenges.

  • The business may fall prey to mass cyber attacks 
  • The organization may fail in security audits and lose compliance
  • The lack of security testing almost certainly incurs more severe penalties in the case of a breach.
  • A company ends up spending a lot of money on damage control.

Steps to take to ensure regular security testing

A combination of a continuous vulnerability scanning system integrated into the software development lifecycle and periodic white hat penetration testing can offer a good picture of the overall security posture of a company.

Choosing a security testing service provider that offers automated and manual vulnerability scanning is a good idea.

Companies need a security testing strategy that aligns with the business goals and compliance requirements.  

Industries are governed by different security regulations. The General Data Protection Regulation, for instance, governs every organization that collects, stores, and processes data in the European Union or data belonging to the citizens of the European Union. Similarly PCI DSS or Payment Card  Industry Data Security Standard applies to every company that processes payment card data. There are other regulations like HIPAA, SOC2, and ISO27001 for different sectors. 

To comply with these regulations organizations need strong access controls, clear security policies, and incident response plans. Most importantly, regulations require immediate action on the victim’s part in the case of a cyberattack.

Companies that fail to comply with relevant regulations may incur hefty fines, and lose their reputation and business. Compliance audits are quite elaborate and expensive affairs and it serves a company to be prepared.

1. Maintain strong security access controls

 The use of an enterprise-grade identity and password management system is key in terms of completing compliance audits. Easily traceable access trails make it easy for the auditor to understand security practices in the workplace.  

2. Having an incident response team and strategy 

Compliance-related challenges surface when a company fails to observe standardized steps after falling prey to a security breach. Having an incident response strategy where personnel are assigned specific duties keeps panic at bay. It helps an organization navigate the murky waters of post-incident legal procedures with relative ease. 

3. Overall good security hygiene

Dealing with a cybersecurity incident is never a welcome affair. Incidents are to be avoided at all costs. Following good security habits like using password managers, not sending sensitive data in plaintext, and not staying logged into third-party services indefinitely, can prove pivotal in stabilizing an organization’s overall security health.

Key Takeaways – Tips for avoiding security challenges

  • Two-factor authentication is a must for all applications. It is wise to encourage employees to use 2FA (automate 2FA and employees will be happy to use it) or MFA for the applications on their own devices as well.
  • Using a good quality password and access management tool is essential for implementing practical and efficient access control without losing proficiency. Uniqkey has been ranked as the #1 tool across Europe.
  • Network segmentation can spare an organization from many security risks, especially the ones posed by third-party exposure. 
  • Zero trust and least privilege is the way to go when it comes to cloud security. 


Uniqkey is the perfect password management solution for teams and businesses. Built with high usability in mind, Uniqkey makes it easy for employees to adopt secure password habits, raising company-wide security in a simple and effective way.