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The 5 Biggest Cyber Security Threats To Small Businesses 

Cyber Security

Small business is at as much of a risk of a security breach as any large business and the damage can be far greater in relative terms. So, what do you do to protect your small business from cyber security threats? 

1. Phishing Attacks

Phishing is a social engineering attack mainly used to steal crucial user/organization data, including login details, personal information, and credit card numbers. An attacker targets unsuspecting users by pretending to be someone they know and/or trust, then entices them to download an infected file or click on a malicious link.   Clicking on the link or downloading the file gives the attacker access to your network and computer systems, as well as sensitive information, user credentials, and other details. Small businesses are among the biggest targets for phishing attacks, with 90% of all reported cyberattacks being phishing attacks. Last year alone saw businesses lose more than $12 billion from phishing attacks. 

Phishing attacks have evolved significantly over the past few years, with attackers today more convincing than ever. Most attackers will have done reconnaissance on the target before making a move. The attacker can pretend to be a legitimate business contact or, even worse, be someone you know. Some actors may use phishing campaigns to steal high-level clearance credentials, business email account passwords, etc., then use the information gathered to request payments fraudulently from employees.  

Although you might not know this, phishing attacks cause the highest level of damage to both small and established businesses. It is also the hardest to combat as attackers don’t just target your devices or data but rather use social engineering to get humans (employees) to do their bidding. This doesn’t however mean you cannot protect your business from such attacks. You can protect yourself by: 

Have strong Email Security in place: These gateways, e.g., Mimecast, Proofpoint, etc., help block phishing emails from passing through to an employee’s inbox. It would help if you also considered using cloud-based email security providers (IRONSCALES) to keep such emails out as well. These email security providers go the extra length to identify and report phishing emails, enabling admins to delete and block the emails. 

Consider Security Awareness Training:  This is one of the most crucial steps in preventing phishing attacks. It involves training and testing employees on how to identify phishing attacks and what to do if targeted. 

2. Malware Attacks

This is the second biggest cyber threat that many small businesses face. The hacker can use either viruses, trojan, or both to infiltrate your computer networks and systems with a malware attack. The worrying part about a trojan or virus attack is that the malicious code can remain undetected in your systems for days. The code can thus discreetly steal and transmit data to the attacker in real-time. Some virus attacks could even destroy data in your computer systems. A malware attack can occur when you open spam emails, download infected files from websites or emails, as well as connect infected devices and machines to your main network. 

Malware attacks can cripple a business’ operations by taking control of your devices or even corrupting data. Many attackers use malware to create a backdoor into your systems, giving them access to sensitive customer and employee data. Many small businesses allow their employees to bring and work from their personal devices, especially laptops. While this may save the company a few coins, it only increases the risk of suffering a malware attack. Personal devices are at a higher risk of getting infected (from malicious downloads) than corporate devices. 

One way to protect your business from malware attacks is to have a robust Endpoint Protection solution in place. Deploy threat protection and consider Zero Trust security. This helps prevent malware downloads and ensures managed devices have the latest security updates.   Web security, SIEM tools, and monitoring can also help prevent employees from downloading infected software or visiting malicious websites. 

3. Ransomware

Thousands of businesses suffer ransomware attacks every year. These attacks are becoming more common by the day, with victims getting locked out of their systems and unable to access any data. A ransomware attack involves infecting computer systems, locking users out by encrypting all files and then demanding ransom. Many small businesses are torn between paying the huge ransoms to unlock their data and losing it altogether, crippling their operations. Many opt to pay the amount demanded in exchange for an unlock key. 

According to research, small businesses are the biggest victims of ransomware attacks contributing to more than 71% of reported cases. According to experts, hackers demand an average of $116,000 from their victims, making it a pretty lucrative venture. Attackers target small businesses for they are less likely to back up their data every day and need to keep the business up and running within the shortest time possible to avoid losing clients. Hospitals and the health sector, in general, are a target for ransomware attacks as well. Most hospitals wouldn’t risk losing a patient because their medical records are inaccessible, hence will most likely pay the demanded amount. 

One of the best ways to thwart ransomware attacks is to have strong Endpoint Protection on all devices. Limiting access to these devices can make it hard for attackers to plant the ransomware. Another advantage of an Endpoint solution is it can help detect and mitigate ransomware attacks through a ransomware rollback feature. 

Another measure would be to regularly back up your data to a remote server. By backing up data to the cloud or an offsite server, it will be easier to get back up and running even without paying the ransom. Data backups are crucial in preventing and mitigating ransomware attacks, thus cyber-resilience.

4. Use Strong Passwords

Weak passwords make it easier for hackers and other malicious people to get into your accounts. Most employees, including employers, use weak and easy-to-guess passwords across multiple accounts. It however would be advisable to use complex passwords for all your accounts, especially anything linked to your business. Be sure to use a unique password for each account for improved security. 

Most employees aren’t aware of the risks they put to their business by using weak passwords. It would thus be advisable to create awareness of the importance of strong passwords and have them trained on how to create and use secure passwords. Sharing a password, however complicated it is, across several platforms isn’t a wise move either. 

One way to ensure every employee uses a strong and secure password is to have a Business Password Management service in place. These technologies enable employees to create and manage passwords for all accounts easily and securely. You might also want to enable Multi-factor Authentication for improved security. Multi-factor authentication and verification steps make it almost impossible for a hacker to gain access even after guessing one of the passwords right. 

5. Take Care of Insider Threats

Insider threats pose the greatest risk for small businesses. A former employee, an associate, a business contractor, or even a loyal employee can be the reason for a cyber breach in your company, a reason you want to be careful with these. Some of these actors will do this knowingly (malice or greed) or unknowingly through carelessness and ignorance. According to research by Verizon, more than 25% of all data breaches were a result of an insider threat. 

Insider threats pose a significant risk to the business as they can access and hold much of the company data. This puts both the business and employees/clients at risk, a reason you should look for a way to handle/prevent it. One way to prevent this is by creating employee awareness and educating them on the importance of data security. Creating a tier clearance system to manage how much information an employee has access to and the ability to revoke access at a moment’s notice can also help. Some systems also log every user activity, making it possible to spot fraudulent activity and even prevent an attack before it happens.

More on this topic:

Eight Ways Small Businesses Can Protect Themselves From Cybercrime

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