Information security is something that is a necessity for organizations of all sizes. From the small startups to the large, international conglomerates, information security is an area that should not be discounted or overlooked. With threats lurking around every corner, small organizations must be ready with strong information security to both remain competitive and survive against threats of all complexities.
As hackers get more crafty in developing their cyber threats, many have found that they are honing in more and more on small organizations. They use a number of automated attacks that cast a wide net over many organizations. Once they get a hit, they reel it in and attack what they can.
Since small organizations lack many of the resources of large organizations, hackers target them more readily. While data breaches affecting large companies like Target and Equifax may steal headlines, it is small organizations who become victims of the threats that bear the brunt of the attacks. Let’s explore why information security is important and what small organizations can do to combat these dastardly attacks.
Why are Small Organizations More Vulnerable to Cyberattacks?
Hackers are known to take advantage of any cybersecurity gaps that companies or individuals leave open. This is one of the main reasons why information security is needed for small organizations as the more security that you have, the more likely the organization is to be protected from a data breach.
For the most part, small organizations are reluctant to report scams and are likely to be subject to repeat attacks over time. This could be due to many reasons but the biggest reason of all pertains to lack of resources. It is this lack of resources that leads businesses to decrease their IT budgets, get complacent with employee cybersecurity training and much more. This poses an amplified threat to small organizations.
Whereas large, more established organizations have improved security systems, small organizations with zero to poor protection are quite vulnerable to these types of cyber-attacks. By deploying a solid IT infrastructure, small organizations can not only streamline their business operations but also become competent enough to fight off the competition and survive in hostile markets. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done for most companies (regardless of size).
What are Hackers Doing to Small Organizations?
No matter if they think that a data breach will never happen to them, small organizations need to be conscientious of their information security plans. According to a recent article, the U.S. economy loses between $57 billion and $109 billion per year due to malicious cyber activity. These numbers are poised to get worse since many small organizations don’t report their losses from cybercrime.
Recent research also found that 60% of small organizations go out of business within six months of falling victim to a data breach or cyberattack. The reason for this disturbing statistic lies in the inability for small organizations to recover once their business operations have been interrupted and their brand’s reputation has been compromised due to a lack of resources. Hackers understand the psychology surrounding why a small organization would be more inclined to pay a ransomware attack over a large company which is what incentives bad actors to attack them more and more.
With the average cost of a data breach rising to $3.92 million, many small organizations are unable to shoulder the blow. Unfortunately, many small organizations often don’t see the benefit of spending money to protect against a threat that they doubt will ever happen to them. It is for this very reason that small organizations must fight the urge to allocate more budget towards padding their revenue stream and instead focus on putting more towards their
The protection proper cybersecurity provides isn’t just for you. It’s also for those who you do business with. We have seen people receive emails from business associates that were malicious because the business associate didn’t implement or follow cybersecurity protocols. In brief, being a small target isn’t a defense, and the cost of not protecting your data is far more than what cybersecurity will cost.
As hackers continue to evolve their cyber-attacks with more sophisticated tactics, more small organizations are getting caught in their crosshairs. By building awareness and preparedness from every level of the company, many small organizations can rise above these threats and decrease their possibility of becoming another statistic.
Top Information Security Risks for Small Organizations
Small organizations are often more inclined to let their guard down when it comes to their information security. The small teams that are filled with employees at all levels that wear a multitude of hats can create a somewhat chaotic company if left unchecked. It’s for this reason that small organizations must become more aware of the top information security risks to their network infrastructure to ensure that they do not fall prey to cyber-attack in the future.
Ransomware is a type of cyber-attack that many people around the world have likely either heard about or have experienced first-hand. A ransomware attack functions as a means to hold an organization’s data or systems hostage using highly encrypted malicious software. If the ransom is not paid by the organization before the specified time runs out, then the software will either delete the data forever or post it for all to see on the internet.
Ransomware attacks can cause significant disruption to key business activities and the loss of sensitive information if not properly planned for. As small organizations continue to operate in a manner that requires many employees to work remotely or use a variety of mobile devices to optimize their efficiencies, this will likely lead to an increase in the number of targeted attacks. Having a robust information security system in place to proactively fight these threats before they come to fruition is paramount to salvaging the long-term viability of a small organization.
Social engineering is the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information. Hackers who focus on these types of campaigns against small businesses are typically trying to trick individual employees into giving them their company passwords. Once they have their passwords, hackers can access the employee’s computer and open up Pandora’s box to access the rest of the organization’s network.
Hackers can pull this off by secretly installing malicious software that allows them to take control over your computer. Attackers use this method because it is often more efficient to use psychological trickery to obtain a password than attempt to hack a system with brute force.
Social engineering attacks allow hackers to use nontechnical methods to gain access to an entire organization that they normally wouldn’t be able to access. By maintaining a strong information security stance and ensuring that your employees are well educated on how to spot these attacks will drive down the possibility that they will occur in your organization.
Many organizations rely on electronic communication to send sensitive information such as invoices, employee records, financial reports, and other confidential data to do their business. If this data gets into the wrong hands, it can lead to devastating losses for your organization, as well as damage to its reputation.
Leaving sensitive information stored in your systems unencrypted is a disaster waiting to happen. It is for these reasons that leaving your data in an unencrypted format is like leaving a pot of gold on your doorstep with the neighborhood burglar’s name on it. Although data encryption doesn’t altogether eliminate the risk of a data breach or cyber-attack in the future for a small organization, it does limit the availability of access to only authorized personnel.
Insider threats are not talked about as much as other cyber threats but should be mentioned in the same breath for small organizations due to their staff sizes. Since small organizations require that many employees wear many hats, they are likely to need more access to portions of the network that is normally accounted for by teams of highly trustworthy staff members.
If something goes awry in a large organization with someone who holds administrator or financial account access, there is typically a procedure in place to immediately relinquish their access. If that employee has privileged access to systems and sensitive information, they might conduct illicit activities, such as copying sensitive files offering a pay-off to cybercriminals for retrieving the information they want. If a small organization does not have information security procedures in place, they may miss these infractions until it’s too late.
Combat Hackers With Information Security
Small organizations can take several steps to bolster their information security. Establishing well-defined security processes to protect information is critical to the long term viability of a small organization. Being unable to grasp the importance of information security will sooner or later lead to a cyber-attack.
Educate Your Team on Best Practices
A recent study found that less than 20 percent of small organizations said they were confident in their cybersecurity readiness, and barely half had a clearly defined cybersecurity strategy at all. It is for this reason that small organizations must take it upon themselves to raise awareness in their organizations and increase their defenses to stay protected.
When many organizations think about information security training, they almost immediately gravitate to it not being in their budget. But there are plenty of free cybersecurity training programs that can be completed online that can bolster your staff’s security hygiene quickly.
Even if you do find a cybersecurity training program that does cost a few dollars, it’s best to think of the expenditure as an investment in the future of your company rather than an expense that could be better spent on something else. If you’re in an executive position in your small organization, it’s also a good idea to express your excitement about your cybersecurity training to help cultivate a company culture that is focused on information security.
Establish a Robust Firewall
Whether you’re looking for an information security measure that allows you to set it and forget or not, you need to establish a firewall. Firewalls are great at blocking unauthorized content from breaching your network defenses. It also prevents that cyber-attack from communicating with the command and control server from which it would receive instructions to lockout data.
With cyber-attacks on the rise, firewalls are a must to keep bad actors out and only allow trustworthy sources access to the network. If your small organization is lacking a firewall and a malicious request was allowed access from an untrustworthy source address, it could very well lead to database corruption or deletion. If you have a firewall established, it will track, monitor and defend your database from these attacks automatically. This allows your small organization to remain more efficient, safe and sustainable down the road.
Make a Plan and Stick To It
Small organizations from around the world are increasingly adopting emerging technologies such as mobile devices and apps, the Internet of Things (IoT) and more, even though they lack confidence in their ability to protect their sensitive information. Information is one of the most important intangible assets of any organization, and like other assets, it is the responsibility of the management to protect it appropriately.
By having physical procedures in place that has layers of defense that accompany the encryption of your sensitive data, your small organization can best stave off a worst-case scenario data breach without breaking a sweat. Maintaining this high level of consistency in your organization can also lead to more efficient processes that can reap benefits for your bottom line as well.
Bringing It All Together
To support your information security plan, it’s important to improve staff awareness of information security issues through targeted initiatives whenever possible. Small organizations also need to enforce their information security policies and review them regularly to ensure that they are maintaining their high level of cybersecurity. By implementing information security in a small organization, the business can protect their information and data assets well into the future.