As Chief Information Security Officer, Jon Villanti fervently leads Stellar Bank’s information security program and is responsible for protecting the bank’s information assets while meeting and exceeding regulatory requirements. After spending 29 years in the USAF Reserves, Jon embarked on a second career in cybersecurity and has been a passionate advocate for awareness ever since.
The cyber-landscape evolves quickly, and it can be difficult to keep up. But in this case, ignorance is certainly not bliss, and cyber-attacks can be particularly devastating to small businesses. Below, we asked Jon to share his insights on how small businesses can prepare and protect against emerging cyber-threats.
Q: What are the most common types of cyber-attacks that small businesses face?
Phishing, business email compromise, ransomware and credential theft are rampant, especially amongst small businesses. As a former small business owner, I have a great deal of respect and compassion for the cyber-challenges we all face. There’s good news, though. A handful of security controls go a long way in keeping adversaries at bay.
Q: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) seems to get a lot of attention these days. Why is it so important?
Research shows that people select inherently weak passwords, re-use those passwords across several sites and give away their passwords. The sum of those parts results in a significant weakness when access to resources is granted via knowledge of a username and password.
The combination of a username and password is considered ‘something we know’ and is the first factor of authentication. To make an attacker’s job harder, we don’t allow access to resources until multiple factors of authentication are satisfied. The second factor comes in the form of something we are (biometrics), something we have (one time passcode, push notification or hardware token) or somewhere we are (geo-location). The proper use of MFA can significantly curb business email compromise – it’s the one thing Microsoft and Google agree on!
Q: How has the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) impacted the world of cybersecurity?
AI has been a double-edged sword. Almost all of the top cybersecurity products have introduced AI to improve defensive capabilities. This is great for businesses, however, there’s also a dark side to AI. Attackers can use AI or large language models like ChatGPT to write perfect phishing emails, improve their attack code or enhance existing attack tools and frameworks.
Q: What should a business owner do if they suspect they’ve fallen victim to a cybersecurity attack?
- Immediately seek qualified help. Most small businesses don’t have the specialized tools or staff to recover from a cyber-attack. A cybersecurity expert can help you to work through following steps:
- Identify the depth and breadth of the incident
- Contain the incident and limit additional damage
- Eradicate the malware from your environment
- Recover systems to normal operation
- Closely monitor impacted systems for re-infection
- Learn from the incident and take needed corrective action to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future
- Call your banker to notify them of the breach.
- Report the incident to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- Prepare for the next attack. Develop an incident response plan, practice the plan through tabletop exercises and consider buying a cyber insurance policy.
Knowledge is power! Click here to view additional fraud and cybersecurity-related resources from Stellar Bank.