Matt from the UK, who owns a small business with around 50 employees, is at the same or, rather, a higher risk of cybersecurity attacks and hacking compared to big tech companies and government organizations?!
It may sound crazy, but it's more accurate than you would think. We'll be discussing some burning questions. Why would cyber criminals target small businesses?
What are the major cybersecurity threats for them?
How can they prevent MOST of these attacks?
Let's dive deep into these answers with an elementary explanation.
How are small businesses at higher risk?
Huge companies and governments worldwide have sensitive data which they NEED to protect at all costs. And they sure don't shy away from those costs, spending billions of dollars on cybersecurity measures at every juncture. Small businesses cannot afford these. Although cybercriminals would love to go after the big fish, they know the task is extremely difficult to undertake.
Meanwhile, a STUDY conducted by BullGuard found that 43% of SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) don't have any Cybersecurity Defense Plan.
A thought that often arises is that their data may now be as important since it's a small business. However, it's a false notion.
The data source doesn't matter because even small businesses can store valuable records (Eg: Financial or medical data stored in systems of small brokers or clinics.)
Combined with the ease of hacking, targeting small businesses starts looking lucrative, right?
And there are multiple threats faced by them too, which we'll discuss in the forthcoming section.
What are the top 5 threats they face? 1) Insider Threats
What's that? Well, as the name suggests it has got to do with actions by employees or contracts INSIDE the organization - current or former.
They have access to critical data and the network, which can be compromised. It could be out of spite or pure carelessness, but either of them spells bad news for the business.
A report by Proofpoint stated that insider threat incidents have risen a whopping 44% over the past two years.
The problem is more prevalent in small businesses as they tend to give access to employees more leeway.
And points back to having lesser to no cybersecurity protocols in place.
2) Phishing Attacks
Your colleague Samantha sent you an email asking for your credentials to log in to the system because they couldn't find their own.
The next thing you know, all the systems of your small business are down and you've been hacked.
That's how a phishing attack works.
This is one of the most damaging and widespread methods used for bringing down small businesses. Phishing attacks account for 90% of all data breaches as per CISCO (SOURCE) Its effectiveness is high because it tends to rely on human error and misjudgment compared to directly trying to attack systems.
There is a recent surge in Business Email compromise too, but we'll leave that discussion out for another time!
3) Malware & Ransomware Attacks
Malware is a malicious code that hackers create to gain access to networks, and steal, encrypt and/or destroy data on systems.
The attacks have similar modulus operandi and work hand in hand with phishing as email attachments are the most common mode of delivery of this infected software. You can read more about it HERE. Ransomware is a type of malware attack where hackers encrypt the data and ask for a ransom amount to unlock the systems and/or return the stolen data.
The financial blow to small businesses having to shut down their operations and pay the ransom could run them into the ground.
Because small businesses are more likely to have employees work on their own devices to prevent additional costs, the risk of these attacks grows substantially.
4) Weak Credentials
Ah, the same old issue which requires minimal effort to overcome and has major consequences.
Due to the overall lack of cybersecurity training and awareness in smaller businesses, the importance of strong credentials is not portrayed.
Moreover, many of these small businesses utilize multiple cloud services which need them to have different accounts. However, many users tend to reuse the same passwords everywhere, which could have a domino effect if even one of them is hacked.
Having a weak and easily guessable password is the Achilles heel of even the most sophisticated cybersecurity infrastructure. So, the next time Harry tells you to set up the password as "123456", remind them of the consequences.
5) Lack of Preparation We are always told to prepare for the worst. But what if we're too complacent to even consider it happening to us? That's a major issue that small businesses face. And we have already mentioned the statistics backing this claim. They don't tend to back up their data or have a disaster recovery plan in place in case their systems are compromised.
Moreover, deciding how they would tackle an attack or stolen client information are some factors that SHOULD be discussed.
Maybe in the next meeting, Kate should raise the point of having a cybersecurity preparedness plan for their organization.
With all these stats and factors put into consideration, small businesses have to take action to prevent astronomical damage to their systems.
How can SMBs prevent MOST of these attacks?
As per the US National Cybersecurity Alliance, around 60% of companies go out of business within six months after falling victim to a data breach.
Now you know the gravity of the situation and the types of threats.
So, what measures can be taken to alleviate the risk?
➡️ Small businesses NEED to have more cybersecurity awareness within their organization. This will prevent mistakes that could lead to insider, phishing and malware attacks.
Vigilant employees are the best defense against any cybersecurity threat. Limiting access to a purely need-based approach could be considered too. ➡️ There should be security mandates put into place for credentials. This would include having a strong password and using business password managers (READ HERE).
Moreover, multi-factor authentication should be enabled to prevent attacks even in worst-case scenarios if the password is cracked. ➡️ Having Endpoint Protection solutions can protect devices from malware downloads and also keep the security of systems up to date.
➡️ A backup and recovery plan and an overall cybersecurity action plan could go a long way in securing small businesses in case of an inevitable attack on their systems.
➡️ If all these seem like too much to worry about, you could just hire or consider the services of MailSPEC who would secure your emails and create your cybersecurity infrastructure.
Every business thinks it wouldn't happen to them until it finally does and it's too late.
The bottom line is that this exhaustive list of cyberattacks is increasing daily, not only in volume but also in techniques.
Hackers and scammers are finding out new ways to get into your systems and extort data/money from them. Thankfully, being vigilant and exercising precautions can go a long way in preventing such attacks.
We’ll keep sharing more cybersecurity tips in our efforts to make the digital world safer for everyone.