Small businesses have an incredible number of roadblocks that stand in their way to success including their competition, industry volatility, and even security threats. Protecting your small business against these security threats can help you maintain your credibility and keep you from falling into despair and bankruptcy in the future.
By educating yourself and your employees on the types of vulnerabilities that your organization can embody, you can get one step closer to being protected from cybercrime. Let’s look at the key security threats to small businesses that exist and how your small business can protect itself from bad actors who are looking to steal your sensitive data.
How At-Risk are Small Businesses to Cyber Attacks?
Cyber threats are a worry for businesses of all sizes but small companies are particularly vulnerable. In fact, 61% of small businesses have experienced a cyber-attack in the past year according to a recent report. This shows how dangerous a cyber threat incident can be on your business.
No matter which industry you’re in, hackers are always looking to get their hands on your sensitive information. Whether it’s your company’s payroll information or your customer data, protected health information, payment card data, Social Security Numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, or confirmation numbers; hackers want it all. These hackers do not discriminate based on the products you sell, the services you offer or even the size of your business.
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They just want your data
Since data became the most valuable asset in the world in 2017, beating out oil for the top spot, hackers have been ramping up their efforts to gobble up as much data as they possibly can. This focus has led to hackers focusing more on small businesses instead of larger corporations due to a number of reasons. Data is becoming a more sought-after resource with each passing day. Small businesses must, therefore, decide whether they want to attempt to handle their IT solutions internally or outsource their compliance efforts.
Are Cyber Threats the Same for All Businesses?
Small businesses, have been able to leverage technology to compete against far bigger rivals, but at the cost of introducing new risks and threats to the equation. Business systems and data are constantly in danger from hackers, malware, rogue employees, system failure, natural disasters, and more. Having a robust IT security program in place isn’t just a recommendation for small businesses; it’s a necessity to adequately mitigate risks on the spot.
Alas, no organization is truly safe from cyber threats. Large or small, you are a target for hackers whether you like it or not. While the assets that small businesses hold can be significantly different than enterprise-level businesses, many of the cyber threats are the same.
Since many small businesses utilize third-party vendors to carry out tasks that allow them to grow and scale within their budget, the risk of experiencing a security incident will significantly increase as a result. Things like weak passwords, ineffective mobile device policies, vulnerable POS systems, and misunderstanding cybersecurity threats can compromise an entire organization quickly and with devastating effects.
Large corporations have what small businesses don’t have: deep pockets to spend on implementing the type of robust, internal cybersecurity structure that adequately protects their network infrastructure. Even if a small business employs a crack team of IT wizards to take on the tall task of protecting their firewalls from an intrusion, it still comes down to manpower and resources.
Many small businesses would likely not be as fortunate as larger businesses if hit by a data breach, which is why it’s imperative to recognize that you’re a target for cyber-attacks no matter the size of your business. The most successful and regularly occurring cyber-attacks are those that occur because hackers are counting on employees to make a mistake and give them access to sensitive information. Let’s review some of the most common and destructive security threats that are plaguing small businesses and what your SMB can do to counteract these attacks.
Out of all of the threats to a small business, malicious code stands out as one of the most common and devious of all. These security threats are notorious for compromising data stored that is stored on computers via viruses or programs.
Malicious code can infect files, memory space (RAM or Paged Memory), boot sectors, and hardware remotely, wreaking havoc all along the way. Let’s look into the most common types of malicious code that small businesses must be aware of and how business leaders can sidestep a breach moving forward.
Malicious software (otherwise known as ‘malware’) has a history of disrupting or damaging the devices that they are installed on by bad actors. Malware goes to work immediately by gathering pertinent sensitive or private information which it then uses to gain access to private computer systems.
There are many reports of malware making itself known to a computer owner by way of an on-screen message with a skull and crossbones or something. However, most times, the malware will sit incognito on an individual’s hard drive or network, leeching onto any data source that it can get its greasy little hands on. These programs are designed to evade detection making it almost impossible for you to tell that you’ve been infected until it’s too late.
If malware is the loaded gun that is calmly pointed at your network, then ransomware is the dormant volcano that is set to launch fireballs into your network if you don’t do something about it. Once you receive a ransomware threat, you’ll find that your sensitive files will be encrypted with the demand that you pay a hefty ransom to get them back. The fine that the ransomware asks of you could be a few hundred dollars or several thousand dollars for small businesses.
The more value that the organization sees that their data is worth, the more they are willing to pay for it. This puts business owners in a very difficult place to have to choose between losing their data or paying a substantial ransom. By implementing robust security policies, best practices, and strong governance, small businesses can protect themselves from ransomware and other cyber-attacks.
Spyware is another form of malicious code that takes information about the user and uses that information to attack a large variety of users in order to ensnare as many potential victims as possible. It finds its way onto your computer without your knowledge or permission, attaching itself to your operating system. Even if you do discover its unwelcome presence on your system, Spyware does not come with an easy uninstall feature.
This technology can make your computer do things you don’t want it to do such as open a file you don’t want to open, track your online activity, or steal your passwords. Hackers that use spyware will use the information that they steal vicariously through your computer to purchase email addresses and passwords that support malicious spam or even drain bank accounts if given the opportunity. At the end of the day, no one is immune from spyware attacks, and attackers usually care little about whom they are infecting, as opposed to what they are after.
Last, but definitely not least, we have the email-based security threats known as phishing scams. These terrible threats come through your organization’s email client, impersonating a reputable organization, investor, a member of your company’s executive staff. Really, anyone is a target who the hacker may think has the authority to get them to the place they want to get to.
Phishing attacks are tricky to spot unless you know what you’re looking for. The rule when it comes to spotting phishing attacks is that if the email seems too good to be true, it most likely is a phishing scam.
These security threats are simple, yet incredibly effective when put in front of someone that is either new to the organization and doesn’t know the protocols, or someone who isn’t familiar with how to spot a phishing scam. Most phishing scams focus on getting your to reset your password via a deceptive link that they then use to steal your information and gain access to the company’s server.
You can typically see the destination URL of these deceptive links by hovering over the link in your email client, but the links can be further disguised with lookalike letters that make the URL look like it’s coming from a legitimate domain company webpage. These fake emails and links are made to look so legitimate that it’s tempting to type your username and password.
If you’re not sure as to the legitimacy of the email and you feel that it may be fake, you can always call your IT administrator directly (or whoever supposedly sent the email if you have a good working relationship with them), and ask if they sent that email. If you’re physically close enough to speak with the individual who sent the email face to face, then it’s best to briefly explain the situation to them and why you have an inkling that the correspondence is fraudulent. This may sound like overkill to some, but it isn’t to those who have experienced a data breach at the hands of a phishing attack.
How to Avoid Security Breaches in General
Hackers have made it a point to create these sneaky programs with the sole purpose of being a major drain on your organization in more ways than one. This means that it’s not enough to train your employees to be careful not to open or click emails or links that look suspicious. Of course, it couldn’t hurt to educate your employees on what these types of attacks look like and how to steer clear of them, but avoiding them altogether takes sound strategizing.
First, make sure that you keep your security software current with the most up-to-date security software, web browsers, and operating systems you can afford. This is your first line of defense (other than your employees).
Your second line of defense is to protect all of your devices that have the ability to connect to the internet. Be sure to monitor all devices (including mobile devices) and give them the best security protection from malicious code infiltration as possible.
Lastly, keep external devices such as USBs on lockdown. Make sure that your team has the functionality it needs to encrypt the data that they are taking off or putting on your network from these devices so that they don’t have to worry about infecting your system with APTs. Above and beyond this, you should also make it a point to implement these protocols to keep your small business network safe from security threats big and small:
- Implement robust password management solutions: First, make sure that whoever holds administrator access to all passwords is someone who can be trusted and is equipped with modern password management software. Also, consider the ramifications that letting an employee go would have on your small business means (since that one employee represents a vastly larger percentage of your business than it would for a large corporation). If that employee were managing any type of platform before you let them go, make sure you immediately change those passwords as soon as they’re out the door.
- Give your employees the security training they need: Security training starts with onboarding your employees and doesn’t stop until their final days. Presenting your employees with the right information on security threats and how to steer clear of them will give them the confidence to know what to do if they sense there has been a security breach.
The Art of Protecting your Small Business From Security Threats
Thankfully, small businesses are not completely in hot water when it comes to trying to protect themselves and their data from advanced persistent threats (APTs). Even though many small businesses have never experienced a data breach, they are much less likely to have access to the caliber of resources and established response protocols are needed to handle malicious code or phishing attacks.
In the end, the best thing that you can do for your small business is to take a proactive stance and try to protect your company from these dastardly threats as best you can. By training and educating your employees on what to when they see the signs of security threats, you’ll be in a better place to be able to grow and scale well into the future. Contact RSI Security to get started today.