Safeguarding Small Businesses in the Digital Age
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and there are some important things small businesses need to think about as they run and grow their businesses.
The advent of the Internet unlocked unprecedented opportunities for small businesses. However, it also ushered in a new kind of crime: cyberattacks that can cost businesses money and customers, and damage their reputations.
While large businesses have the resources to invest in cybersecurity defenses, smaller companies often do not have the time and resources to dedicate to the issue. However, it’s crucial to raise awareness of an unfortunate reality: small businesses are particularly appealing targets for cybercriminals.
In 2022 alone, global cyberattacks surged by 38%. It’s projected that by 2025, the damages inflicted by cybercrime will cost companies worldwide $10.5 trillion, a sharp increase from $3 trillion in 2015. Alarmingly, 43% of these cyberattacks target small businesses. but only 14% are adequately prepared to defend themselves. Small businesses are, in fact, three times more susceptible to cybercrime than their larger counterparts, and over half of affected small businesses close within six months of an attack!
Common forms of cybercrime targeting small businesses include:
- Ransomware: Malicious software that is unknowingly downloaded to lock an individual or organization out of their computer or network. The attacker then threatens to either withhold access permanently or leak the private information unless a ransom is paid. 82% of ransomware attacks are aimed at companies with fewer than 1000 employees.
- Phishing emails: deceptive emails or malicious websites trick individuals into divulging sensitive information under the guise of a legitimate, trusted entity. Nearly 1.2% of all emails sent are malicious, translating to about 3.4 billion phishing emails daily. With a ransomware or phishing attack happening every 11 seconds, small businesses are particularly vulnerable. Beyond investing in security measures, it’s important to educate ourselves on phishing signs and simple preventative tactics, such as how to configure accounts for added security, and evaluating email and website addresses for authenticity.
- Password attacks: Around 80% of hacking-related breaches result from compromised credentials or passwords. While the methods to acquire these credentials vary, the end result is the same: unauthorized access to sensitive information, such as financial data. Using complex and varied passwords, and not entering your password information or sharing it with anyone that you do not know, are great places to start.
Cybersecurity experts are continuously working to adapt and improve their strategies, making it increasingly difficult for cybercriminals to exploit these advancements. By staying informed about cost-effective strategies and the latest protective measures, even small businesses can shield themselves from potential risks. Here are some protective measures you might find useful (some of which might be familiar from our recent 3C Insider Newsletter!):
1. Prioritize Education for Your Team.
Empower your employees by educating them about prevalent cybersecurity threats. Recognizing and promptly reporting potential threats, such as phishing emails or ransomware, can be critical in maintaining security.
2. Advocate for Strong Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
Stress the necessity of crafting strong, unique passwords incorporating a blend of letters, numbers, and symbols. If you haven’t already, implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security.
3. Keep Software Updated and Data Backed Up.
Keep all software, including operating systems and apps, up-to-date, enabling automatic updates whenever possible to protect your systems against known vulnerabilities. Regularly back up data across all computers, using automatic backups when possible. This practice prepares you for any data compromises or losses resulting from cyberattacks.
4. Protect your mobile devices.
Given the sensitive business-related information mobile devices can store, it’s important to boost their security. Encourage practices like password protection, data encryption, and the use of security apps. This will lower the risk of these devices becoming gateways for cyber attackers, especially when accessing public networks.