Why are servers such tempting targets for cybercriminals?

Why are servers such tempting targets for cybercriminals

High-profile cybersecurity incidents have become commonplace in Australia. In May 2019, Sydney-based graphic design company Canva fell victim to a data breach that affected 139 million users. Reports confirmed that the compromised information included names, passwords, addresses, and email accounts.

A month later, another massive-scale breach occurred — this time concerning the Australian National University (ANU). Forensic investigations found that hackers were able to access 200,000 personal records from the university’s database.  

Although these incidents aren’t connected, they both have one thing in common: hackers infiltrated company servers. In fact, most cybersecurity developments that make the headlines involve some form of server breach. Even small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are likely to find malicious activity on their servers. So what makes servers so appealing to hackers?

Servers are a gold mine of information

Cybercriminals are always looking for lucrative opportunities, and they have a lot to gain by attacking business servers. This is because servers house plenty of sensitive material that fetch a high price on the dark web. Stolen passports and medical records, in particular, are worth over $1,000.

However, if the data doesn’t make much profit, cybercriminals can still leverage it for nefarious activities. For instance, they can hijack online accounts and make fraudulent purchases with stolen passwords and credit card information.

Cybercriminals may also hold personal and operational data hostage and demand a ransom for their release. The healthcare industry is typically susceptible to this type of threat since they need round-the-clock access to critical information to care for patients.

A host of weaknesses

Servers are easy targets because they’re often riddled with vulnerabilities. First, they may be configured to allow unauthorised users to access sensitive files. Employees may use weak passwords or interact with phishing scams that let hackers into company servers. What’s more, outdated server operating systems (OS) and firmware can create security loopholes for attackers to exploit.

Modern servers also rely on high-speed networks to deliver computing resources to business devices, emails, applications, and websites. Cybercriminals can wreak havoc on servers that lack comprehensive security measures.

In theory, they’ll be able to intercept data transmitted between servers and devices or shut down critical systems with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Even redirecting website visitors to malicious sites is possible when hackers have complete control of the company web server. 

Lax physical security

Physical server security is usually an afterthought for most businesses, but this is a fatal mistake. The absence of key locks, secured server cages, and surveillance systems guarding server rooms is essentially an open invitation for cybercriminals.

Instead of developing remote attacks, cybercriminals can easily circumvent the toughest firewalls by walking into company server rooms. From there, they can write dangerous commands on server consoles or steal backup drives without anyone knowing.

What are the impacts of server attacks?

A successful server breach can lead to substantial financial losses due to data loss, unauthorised wire transfers, and fines. According to an IBM study, businesses can lose US$360,000 on average per data breach incident. Your company may even incur thousands of dollars in productivity losses from DDoS and ransomware attacks.

Companies must report the incident to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). If customer records were compromised, you must also inform clients of the breach, so they can protect themselves. 

Finally, cyberattacks can damage your company’s reputation and erode customer trust. This can have a knock-on effect on sales and profit margins.

How can organisations protect themselves?

When it comes to securing servers, it’s not enough to install antivirus software and firewalls. You need a holistic security system that protects your servers from all angles. This requires:

  • Strict access controls prevent unauthorised access to critical systems
  • Vulnerability scanning uncovers server weaknesses hackers may exploit
  • Proactive patch management – fixes bugs and vulnerabilities in your server firmware, OS, and security systems
  • Advanced threat monitoring – uses machine learning to look for suspicious server activity that may indicate a breach 
  • End-to-end encryption – makes files indecipherable to cybercriminals 
  • Multifactor authentication – fortifies user accounts with additional verification methods like a one-time SMS activation code. 
  • Off-site backups ensure you have multiple copies of your documents in case of data loss
  • Physical security deters break-ins and IT sabotage

There’s a lot of cybersecurity measures on this list, but implementing them will make your servers much less tempting for hackers. Of course, you don’t have to implement these tools alone. Empower IT provides unmatched cybersecurity services and solutions to protect your servers from any threat. Call us today to protect your company’s crown jewels.