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Could your IP address be compromising your company's cyber security?

schedule 8th February 2018 by Emma Brook in Virtual College Last updated on 24th April 2018

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Companies need to be aware of the ways in which cyber criminals can exploit their IP address, and to educate themselves on how to minimise this risk.

It can be challenging for companies to put a data protection policy in place that covers all of the potential risks and pitfalls that can lead to attacks by cyber criminals. However, as technology takes on an ever-more central role in the business world, the importance of doing so is only likely to increase.

One of the biggest difficulties that business owners face is the fact that cyber criminals have sophisticated and often ingenious methods of attack, taking advantage of weaknesses and workarounds that many people are unaware of. One example is the way illegal operators can exploit a company's IP address - a vital piece of data that's essential for connecting to the internet - to carry out a range of malicious or harmful activities.

As such, it's vital for businesses to make sure they learn all they can about these kinds of vulnerabilities, and take steps to secure them. By investing in the necessary education and acting fast, organisations can stay a step ahead of the criminals and make sure they never have to deal with the kind of damage a cyber attack can cause.

What is an IP address?

Your IP address plays a crucial role in how your company's various devices interact with others online, making them a common and tempting target for cyber criminals who know how to exploit them.

Every IP address takes the form of a unique combination of numbers generated for use as an identification marker, allowing networked devices to identify each other and communicate information accordingly. In this respect, they work similarly to a physical address - and just as a physical address can make it easier for criminals to target a company, so too can an IP address be used to launch a number of different types of attack on an organisation's digital infrastructure.

How do cyber criminals exploit IP addresses?

Once a malicious operator has access to your company's IP address, they can potentially cause any amount of damage, ranging from small nuisance incidents to major events that have a lasting impact on your bottom line.

For example, they can replicate your IP address to download illegal content that can cause problems with internet service providers or law enforcement agencies; more seriously, they can use the address to launch large-scale attacks against your network, including highly damaging DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, which flood corporate servers with fake web traffic to render connections inoperable. This can result in extended outages that will interrupt your ability to deliver core services for your clients, leading to lost revenues and reputational damage.

It's also worth considering that some criminals use IP addresses alongside geolocation technology to track down the physical location of your company's offices and devices, which creates a whole other spectrum of potential risks. Naturally, incidents such as these represent a worst-case scenario - but it's still worth taking any obvious precautions to prevent such risks from arising.

What steps can my organisation take to protect itself?

One of the most common methods used by businesses to protect their IP address is to set up a virtual private network (VPN), which uses higher-level encryption and proxy tunnelling to redirect traffic through a separate server. This service costs more than a typical internet setup, but can often be worth the additional expenditure for companies that value the added network security and control it provides.

Other businesses will prefer to take smaller but helpful steps such as revising privacy settings on online-enabled software, such as instant messaging programs, or to invest in more advanced firewall and antivirus solutions to close off the number of security vulnerabilities that would-be attackers might otherwise try to target.

What's perhaps most important of all, however, is to make sure your organisation has invested the right amount into cyber security training for all relevant staff members. After all, no security system is foolproof - especially when something as common as an IP address can be exploited in this manner - but by getting everyone within the organisation up to speed on their security responsibilities, you can make sure that any risks can be kept to a bare minimum.

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Emma Brook - Virtual College

Author: Emma Brook

Emma works in the marketing design team at Virtual College and works on a variety of print and digital design projects. In her spare time she enjoys going to gigs and the theatre.

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