Companies’ increasing dependence on technology for every facet of their business – including activities such as payment, scheduling, invoicing, marketing, and more – makes them more and more vulnerable to cyber threats such as data breaches or denial of service attacks.
If you think your status as a small business will help you evade the notice of malicious actors online, think again – because small companies have become a favored target of hackers and other cyber criminals.
Believe it or not, many small businesses are currently highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Because their owners believe that they’re too small for hackers to target, many business owners fail to take even cost-free cyber security solutions that all computer owners can use. The complacency toward cyber security, combined with weak defenses and inadequate know-how to recognize malicious activity directed toward their businesses, makes small business a ripe target for cyber criminals.
50 Percent of Small Businesses Faced Cyber Attacks
According to Small Business Trends, 43 percent of cyber-attacks target small companies, but only 14 percent of small businesses say their ability to ward off cyber-attacks is highly effective. More than half of small companies surveyed by Small Business Trends said their companies have experienced a cyber-attack in the past year. Unfortunately, 51 percent of small businesses do not allocate any of their budgets to cyber-attack mitigation.
Cyber-attacks are more than just an inconvenience for small companies. Data breaches can compromise customer data, causing them to lose faith in the company and take their business elsewhere. Cyber-attacks can wipe out important information and also result in the direct theft of funds. Businesses often incur huge costs to repair harm to their IT infrastructure caused by malicious online actors.
Cyber-attacks can cause great financial harm and even put small companies out of business. According to Small Business Trends, a respected business publication, companies spend an average of $879,000 on IT costs following a cyber-attack or data breach. About 60 percent of small companies go out of business within six months of a severe cyber-attack.
These statistics send a clear message to small businesses – the time to invest in cyber security training and solutions is now. By adopting some best practices for cyber security, small businesses can tighten security at their companies without great expense.
Cyber Security Best Practices
- Carefully control access to data – Most businesses run applications with access to company data, such as customer information, invoices, etc. These applications give your employees the tools they need to quickly and efficiently perform their jobs. Applications with access to data, particularly online applications, can put your organization at risk.
Business owners should carefully consider what applications to use when selecting applications that will have access to their data. Applications with access to your data can give hackers or disgruntled employees a fast route to sensitive data, including your customers’ personal or financial information.
In addition to keeping a tight rein on what applications have access to your data, you also need to keep a firm grip on who can use those applications to access data. The more people that can access your data, the more vulnerable that data is. Limit access to applications and data to only employees who need that access to perform their work.
Also, if you have outside contractors using your applications or resources, it’s important to strictly limit their access to company data and computing resources, too. Most IT infrastructure offers a number of ways to limit access to information and applications, such as group policy settings. Be sure to utilize those helpful features.
- Make use of logging systems – Logging features can help business owners better track how their computer resources are being accessed and used. Review of reports can help point out vulnerabilities or possible breaches of security. Many computer functions offer logging tools, while some applications will require third-party logging software for data collection services. The time and effort are worth it, however, because of the critical information that loggers may provide.
- Train your users – People are usually the greatest liability to information security. Employees can be blackmailed or intimidated for information, they can give it away through careless talk, or they can make errors or intentional acts to make your company vulnerable to cyber-attacks and breaches.
Companies can mitigate their exposure to cyber threats through this avenue by conducting periodic training regarding cyber security. Training exercises can help teach users the importance of good password practices, why avoiding dangerous applications and websites is important, safe practices regarding data storage, and other online habits that will deter cyber-crime. Training sessions can also help reinforce among employees the importance of establishing a good security culture at work.
- Keep your security up to date – Everyone hates updates, especially because they always seem to occur right when you’re trying to do something. Don’t put off updates, however, because malicious actors seeking to breach your system are not twiddling their thumbs. Cyber threats are ever evolving, and malicious actors continuously seek new ways to find vulnerabilities. Security patches and updates keep you ahead of the game by continuously plugging vulnerabilities as they are found.
- Be wary of offline threats – Hackers don’t always use sophisticated programs or fancy hardware to gain the information they need to access your company’s data. Sometimes it’s just a good old-fashioned con job that gives them the keys to the kingdom.
For example, a hacker might gain critical data such as log-in information by calling an employee and posing as a member of the IT department or they may use phishing emails to get employees to give up passwords and other information online. They may also scour employees’ social media pages for information they can use to get access, such as birthdays, places of birth, parents’ names, etc. Train your workers to recognize social engineering ploys and to avoid them.
- Develop a contingency plan – Preparation can keep data breaches and cyber-attacks from becoming cyber security disasters. Small companies should have contingency plans for data breaches, such as protocols regarding informing customers that their data may have been compromised, backups for important data, and quick response plans to restore functionality to key applications and websites. Your response plan should also include cyber security solutions services and IT support providers to use in the event of an attack or other cyber-crime.
Budgets are tight, and competition is more fierce than ever, but small businesses cannot afford to leave themselves vulnerable to cyber-attack. According to Forbes, the costs of cyber-crimes worldwide is expected to reach $2 trillion by the end of the decade. The digitization of every aspect of our lives, including how we do business, makes us all vulnerable to cyber criminals. More than 169 million personal records were compromised by malicious actors in 2015, the result of 781 publicized breaches in the financial, education, business, government, and healthcare segments of our economy and society.
The small size or relative obscurity of your business does not make it immune to cyber-attacks.
Cyber-crime costs quadrupled between 2013 and 2015, and they are set to quadruple again between 2015 and 2019. If you don’t want to incur those costs, beefing up your online security is a must.
By investing in cyber security consulting services, small companies can find a cost-effective way to limit their vulnerability to malicious actors online. Alamom provides a wide range of security and safety solutions for business clients. An independent, woman-owned business, Alamom can help businesses large and small tighten up physical security with Active Shooter drills and other safety training, and it can also conduct cyber security audits to help companies better recognize and address threats to their online security.