Cybersecurity: The top six risks small businesses face

Any company can be exposed to cyber attacks. However, when it comes to cybersecurity, small businesses pose a number of risks that are important to identify in order to address them.

Just as there are two sides to every coin, there are also two sides to the technology coin. This sector has transformed and continues to change the daily lives of billions of people, simplifying human activities, allowing more to be done with less time and effort. Every aspect of society has been digitized, from the most subtle (such as household chores) to the most complex technological applications.

However, not everything is so rosy and benevolent on the other side of the coin, as a minority of individuals have unfortunately made it their business to use technology for the wrong reasons. Hackers are the modern Freddy Kruegers of the corporate world. So how do you avoid closing your eyes and getting stuck in the middle of a nightmare?

a tightrope

Hackers are like roaring lions that are constantly on the prowl looking for companies that fall into their trap. No company is safe from the clutches of these shady actors as they are all exposed to cyber threats.

Cybersecurity is a growing problem for companies across the world, as more and more attacks are carried out by criminals who target companies for their valuable information, which can be sold on the black market. Large organizations, like small businesses, are on a tightrope because these hackers don’t cut corners. The threat of cyberattacks against businesses has taken a new turn since the pandemic. In fact, more companies have become vulnerable to cyber attacks due to the increase in online operations with the lockdown.

cybercrime has increased by 600% with the pandemic, and one of the most prominent attacks was against the social media giant twitter in 2020: 130 compromised accounts, including those of Elon Musk and Barack Obama. Also in 2020, a breach in the hotel chain system marriot led to data corruption more than 300 million customers.

Small businesses are not immune, on the contrary, they are more vulnerable to attacks. These companies often lack the technological defenses necessary to prevent attacks, let alone the resources to invest heavily in cybersecurity. However, the adjective “small” is not synonymous with lack of financial means or business resources. It is likely that some small businesses are handling large sums of money or have a lot of customer data. How 43% of small businesses have no cybersecurity defense plan, it’s no surprise that they are a lucrative target for hackers.

What are the cybersecurity risks for small businesses?

Small businesses face cybersecurity risks not just from cybercriminals, but also from their own employees. Here are the top six risks small businesses face.

  1. Ransomware (or ransomware). Ransomware attacks are among the most prevalent cybersecurity threats facing small businesses today. These attacks consist of encrypting a company’s data and holding it hostage until a ransom is paid. According to the results of a study, 48% of attachments of malicious emails are Microsoft Office files, and the average cost of a ransomware attack against a business is $133,000. Companies often pay these ransoms because they don’t have the time or resources to recover from such an attack.
  2. Phishing (or phishing). Phishing is the biggest and most popular cyber threat facing businesses. These scams trick the user into providing their personal information by sending an email that appears to come from a trusted source or website. Companies are not immune to these scams. During a cyber attack, hackers gained access to confidential information about over 20,000 employees of a US federal agency impersonating company executives and sending a malware email.
  3. Malware (or malicious software). Malware is a relatively simple method of attack, and small businesses need to protect themselves against it. They infiltrate a computer via an email attachment or other exploit and run without the user’s knowledge. Once inside a computer, malware can wreak havoc on digital files by altering settings and permissions, blocking specific programs from running, and spying on user activity. Malware is also common on public Wi-Fi networks, where users risk having their devices compromised if they visit an infected website or simply navigate to the wrong page.
  4. Social engineering. Social engineering is when hackers trick individuals into providing sensitive information through various means, such as impersonating another person or a company representative. With the rise in popularity of social networks, social engineering has become rampant and messages sent on these platforms may contain malware that can steal a user’s personal information.
  5. Data theft. One of the biggest concerns of small businesses is data theft. This can happen when hackers steal personal information from employees through trickery or dishonest practices. By accessing an employee’s email account, hackers can easily spread ransomware, phishing or pharming attacks within a company’s network.
  6. Internal threats. A company’s employees pose a significant security threat to companies of all sizes. They leave data on flash drives, facilitate access to corporate files using the same password on personal and work accounts, and fall into the phishing trap that tricks them into providing their login credentials. Several studies have shown that 95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error.

Conclusion

Prevention is better than cure, and when it comes to cybersecurity, you are more likely to prevent attacks by taking action. The best way for small businesses to protect themselves from cybercrime is to institute a comprehensive security plan that includes preventing data loss, implementing an incident response plan, reviewing staff access privileges, and employee training in cybersecurity best practices.

Translated article from Forbes US – Author: Rudy Shoushany and Forbes Technology Council

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