In many facets of their occupation, small business owners face particular difficulties. Security online is no different. Many small business owners struggle to keep their small enterprise cyber-safe, from understanding their risk to finding suitable resources for mitigating that risk.
Small business owners’ struggle to stay cyber-safe is a result of having to stick to a budget. Due to budget constraints, they frequently must make decisions in fields in which they may lack knowledge. The ability to navigate shark-infested cyber waters does not necessarily come with being the best plumber, consultant, or dentist in the world.
This guide offers tips and strategies for protecting small businesses from the ever-expanding list of cyberthreats. It offers methods for estimating risk, comprehending threats, closing vulnerabilities, and putting mitigation measures into practice. Additionally, there is a list of helpful resources.
Why Cyberhackers Go After Small Businesses?
In accordance with Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, small and midsize businesses were impacted by 46% of breaches. Surprised? Never be. Because there are so many choices to be made when opening a small business, cybersecurity precautions are frequently neglected. If they don’t concentrate on bolstering their defenses, they might unintentionally leave points of entry wide open for hackers. That might be a significant issue.
According to a joint report from IBM and the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach rose by 10% in 2021, and according to Verizon’s data, 95% of incidents costing SMBs between $826 and $653,587. Furthermore, these companies frequently lack the funding necessary to mount a successful defense against assaults.
Small businesses fall into the cybersecurity sweet spot for hackers, according to Stephen Cobb, an independent researcher and consultant who studies technology and risk, because they “have more digital assets to target than an individual consumer but less security than a larger enterprise.”
You have a setting that is ready for intrusions when you combine that with the costs involved with putting in place effective defenses. Small business owners are more likely to shell out a ransom to get their data back because security breaches can be devastating to those companies. SMBs may also serve as a launching pad for attackers seeking to enter larger corporations.
How To Evaluate Cyber Risk
A small business owner must have a clear understanding of their cyber risk before they can decide how to improve their cybersecurity posture.
The implementation of security strategies, process changes, and the justification of security-related expenditures will all be guided by an understanding of this risk. Without an understanding of risk, choosing a security measure is nothing more than a guessing game.
Despite the fact that there are numerous ways to define risk, each one necessitates an understanding of threats, weaknesses, and criticality or impact.
Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Impact is the fundamental formula.
The three factors are each explained in more detail below. The small business owner will be able to make rational decisions rather than ones based on fear or emotion by deriving the product, risk.
Although risk is described in this article as a mathematical formula, it is a logical construct rather than a matter of numbers. For instance, let’s say a small business owner wants to evaluate the risk of hackers trying to install ransomware (a likely threat) on a system that contains crucial data.
If the system is vital (a loss would have a negative impact on the company’s ability to continue operating), and the network is particularly vulnerable (possibly because it lacks a firewall and antivirus software), then their risk is high. Although the system is still essential, if the small business has strong perimeter defenses, their vulnerability is low and their risk is medium.
Security vendors overcrowd the market with frequently conflicting claims of the best way to protect sensitive data or stay safe online. To be kind, the trustworthy vendors’ claims are valid, but their solutions aren’t always appropriate for small businesses.
Cyber Threats To Small Businesses
The two most frequent threats to small businesses are malware and social engineering. Malware attacks almost always include a social engineering component, even though hackers frequently carry out social engineering attacks without using malware.
Social engineering is present in about 97 percent of cyber threats. Social engineering is the use of deception to trick people into disclosing private information, clicking a link to download a file, or visiting a malicious website.
Email phishing techniques are frequently used for this, but deception over the phone or through text messages can also be used. Getting a victim’s account login information is the main goal of social engineering campaigns. However, it could also involve enticing the victim to click on a link or go to a website where the hacker can upload malware like ransomware.
However, now is a great time to pause and consider that the most efficient cybersecurity mitigation strategies that small businesses can implement are related to the knowledge and behavior of themselves and their employees. This guide addresses mitigation strategies later.
Software that is specifically intended to harm a computer, server, client, or computer network is referred to as malware (malicious software) under the general term. Viruses and ransomware are examples of malware. The goal of a social engineering attack might be to persuade a small business employee to unintentionally download malware.
Malicious software designed to spread from computer to computer is known as a virus (and other connected devices). Viruses are made to give hackers access to the victim’s computer system. Because of their connection to a larger target, their capacity to spread from one computer to another makes them a favorite of malicious actors who target small businesses.
A hacker might be trying to use the smaller company’s computer connection to infect the larger company with a virus.
A specific kind of malware called ransomware prevents a victim from using their computer or encrypts sensitive information until a ransom is paid. Ransomware typically spreads via a malicious link in a phishing email and takes advantage of unpatched software flaws.
Even after the ransom is paid, the data or system is frequently not released. Critical data are frequently highly dependent on small businesses. The loss of this data might be fatal to a small business. This weakness is exploited by hackers using ransomware.
Phishing is a form of social engineering attack that makes use of email or a malicious website to install malware on a computer or gather private data. Phishing emails give the impression that they were sent by a reliable company or a well-known person.
These emails frequently persuade recipients to click a link or open an attachment that contains harmful software. The computer may get malware infection after the code is run.
The cost savings of email services provided by the cloud are utilized by many small businesses. These affordable email services are perfect for businesses with fewer employees who don’t require a feature-rich email service.
The FBI has recently issued a warning that businesses that use well-known cloud-based email services are being targeted by cybercriminals who run Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams.
The scams are started by specially created phishing kits made to look like cloud-based email services in order to compromise business email accounts and demand or misdirect money transfers. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received complaints from BEC scams involving two well-known cloud-based email services between January 2014 and October 2019 totaling more than $2.1 billion in actual losses.
Many of the security features that can help prevent BEC are present in the majority of cloud-based email services, but many of them need to be manually configured and enabled. By utilizing the full range of offered defenses, users can better defend themselves against BEC.
Following the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of people are using video-teleconferencing (VTC) platforms to stay connected, and reports of VTC hijacking (also known as “Zoom-bombing”) are spreading across the country. The FBI has received numerous reports of conferences being disturbed by threatening language and pornographic and/or hateful images.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses and people to use video teleconferencing as their main form of communication, small businesses have traditionally leaned on these technologies to support remote workers and virtual offices.
Cyber Security Tips For Small Business
Information technology and broadband are significant drivers of productivity and efficiency growth for small businesses as they expand into new markets. To counter the escalating cybersecurity threats, businesses must have a cybersecurity strategy in place to safeguard their own operations, their clients, and their data.
- Educate staff on security principles
Establish fundamental cybersecurity procedures and policies for staff members, such as requiring strong passwords, and appropriate Internet usage guidelines that spell out the consequences of breaking the organization’s cybersecurity rules. Create guidelines outlining how to manage and protect customer information and other important data.
- Prevent cyberattacks on data, computers, and networks.
Maintain clean computers: The best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats are the most recent versions of your operating system, web browser, and security software. A scan should be performed after each update in antivirus software. As soon as new updates for other crucial software become available, install them.
- Protect your Internet connection with a firewall
A firewall is a group of connected programs that guard against unauthorized access to information on a private network. Check to see if the operating system’s firewall is activated, or install online-available, free firewall software. Make sure any home systems that employees use for work are firewall-protected if they work from home.
- Make an action plan for mobile devices.
Mobile devices can pose serious security and management difficulties, particularly if they contain sensitive data or have access to the company network. To stop thieves from stealing data while a phone is connected to a public network, mandate that users password-protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps. Establish reporting procedures for equipment that has been lost or stolen.
- Create backup copies of crucial business information and data.
Make regular backups of all computer data. Word processing files, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files are examples of critical data. Data should be automatically backed up, if at all possible, or at least once a week, and copies should be kept offsite or in the cloud.
- Keep an eye on who has physical access to your computers, and give each employee their own user account
Prevent unauthorized users from accessing or using company computers. Locking up laptops when left unattended will prevent theft or loss since they are easy targets. Make sure each employee has their own user account, and insist on using strong passwords. Only key personnel and trusted IT staff should be granted administrative privileges.
- Protect your wireless networks
Make sure your office’s Wi-Fi network is hidden, encrypted, and secure if you have one. Set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, also referred to as the Service Set Identifier, in order to conceal your Wi-Fi network (SSID). Secure router access with a password.
- Use best practices for credit and debit cards
Make use of the most reliable and verified tools and anti-fraud services by working with banks or processors. Additional security requirements may be imposed on you in accordance with contracts with your bank or processor. Use different computers to process payments and browse the Internet, and isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs.
- Restrain employee access to data and information and software installation authority
Don’t let a single employee have access to all the data systems. Employees shouldn’t be allowed to install any software without permission, and they should only be given access to the specific data systems that they require for their jobs.
- Security codes and identification
Make it mandatory for employees to use special passwords and to change them every three months. Consider using multi-factor authentication, which requires more than just a password to gain access. Determine whether your vendors who deal with sensitive data, particularly financial institutions, offer multi-factor authentication for your account by checking with them.
Cybersecurity is a critical part of any small business. Use common security threats to keep your website and business online safe, and stay ignorant of cybercrime. 2019 has been a year of big data and cyber threats, so it’s important that small businesses take measures to protect themselves from these risks. Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity trends and find ways to stay safe online in 2019.