A report by Symantec (a subsidiary of Broadcom) reveals that compared to larger organizations, smaller organizations are more likely to get attacked with email threats, such as phishing and malware.
In addition to the higher risk that smaller organizations face, it is increasingly difficult (sometimes even impossible) to recover in the event of a security breach. If hackers get unauthorized access to your infrastructure, the sensitive information about your customers, clients, your own company are at risk.
Said another way, a secure defence system is not just crucial for small businesses; it’s critical. The responsibility to protect your company’s data and that of your customers falls squarely on your shoulders. In the paragraphs that follow, we’ll explore what’s at stake and how the risks demonstrate the importance of a sound cybersecurity infrastructure for small companies.
Smaller Businesses are Bigger Targets
Before we dive into what threatens small businesses, let’s establish what a small business is. The U.S. Small Business Administration describes that if your company has fewer than 500 employees, it falls firmly into the ‘small business’ category.
A 2019 study conducted by Verizon shows that if your company has between 250-500 employees, there’s a 43% chance that you’ll fall victim to a cyberattack, (as opposed to the 28% chance for bigger organizations). The same report confirms that 71% of the business hit with cyberattacks had fewer than 100 employees.
But why this discrepancy? The answer isn’t surprising. Small business owners don’t consider their companies to be real targets. And this is where you should start. To protect your business, you should realize that your business is not too small to be on a hacker’s radar.
SMB’s have more assets than an individual, yet their security is easier to breach than, say, a more massive corporation. This fact, coupled with the lax security of these firms makes them an easy target for skilled malicious actors.
More to the point, small-sized businesses consider their cybersecurity to be adequate, even when it’s not. So, in addition to acknowledging cyberattacks as real threats, you need to consider the possibility that your security system might be vulnerable to them.
It Can End Your Business
Earlier this year, hackers broke into Facebook’s network and installed backdoors on the phones of WhatsApp users. WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users worldwide, and It is still unclear how many of them were affected by this breach.
Think of how easily Facebook weathered the attack. But if we were to assume that a smaller company got hit by a similar attack, would it be as unaffected? The answer is a resounding ‘no’. A study conducted by Champlain College shows that up to 60% of small companies go out of business within the first six months of suffering from a breach or data theft.
In addition to the stolen data that was integral to your business, you’ll likely be facing fines and loss of reputation – factors that will increase the economic cost of doing business manifold (more on that in a few). There are also legal ramifications if you fail to protect your customers’ personal information. So not only is your SMB at a higher risk of getting hit with an attack, but it is also much less likely to recover from it.
Cyberattacks will cost you
A research report by Continuum shows that each instance of a security breach can cost a business as much as $50,000 on average. While it may be chump change for larger organizations, a loss of this magnitude can be damaging for a smaller business. The numbers are higher for companies with close to 1,000 employees, who report a loss of $65,000 to network breaches on average.
Ransomware attacks use malicious software to encrypt all your files, holding your entire system hostage until you pay a hefty ransom. Over the past years, ransomware attacks have risen steeply, and they’ve become sophisticated enough that they can infect your data backed up in the cloud, in addition to the files stored locally on your computers.
Note that no computer network is entirely immune to cyberattacks because these attacks an ever-evolving phenomenon. But, fortunately, you can shield yourself from most ransomware attacks with help of a standard up-to-date antivirus program or a hosted antivirus solution.
Social engineering attacks
As concerning ransomware attacks are, they don’t account for nearly as many cyberattacks as social engineering attacks. A 2018 report by Verizon reveals that over half of all the cybersecurity breaches employ social engineering strategies. The most common form of these attacks is phishing. This method relies on the ignorance or negligence of the user to extract login credentials and sensitive information, which can then be used to exploit an individual’s account.
Hackers can use identical-looking websites or emails to gain access to and infiltrate your network. To prevent phishing and similar attacks, you need to have a robust security plan and policy in place. You can also train your employees to adopt the best practices. For example, you can train your employees to not click on unsafe links or download suspicious e-mail attachments.
If your network isn’t completely secure, malicious actors can intercept your traffic and can steal login credentials, intellectual property, and your clients’ data. The first step to fortifying your network is encrypting the data that’s sent and received over your network. So in the case, it is intercepted, hackers won’t be able to read it.
Lastly, the attack might come from inside your company. A current or former employee could inadvertently or maliciously give access to the wrong people. If they’re negligent enough to not use a strong password or have it lying around on a sticky note, just about anyone can access your system.
To avoid this particular threat, it is essential that you limit your employees’ access (especially for outsourced or contract employees). You can also have your employees change their passwords every 90 days.
To wrap this post up, protecting and securing data can be a daunting challenge for small business owners. The threats are real and ever-evolving, and to keep your network safe from them, you need a comprehensive plan of action.