By J W Jackie
RENO, Nevada, USA (IDN) – Nearly one-fifth of small businesses experienced either a hack, virus or data breach in 2019, according to data from B2B site The Manifest. While this proves that small businesses are indeed vulnerable to cyber attacks, it also serves as a warning to others that makes proper security precautions a necessity in 2020 and beyond. From the consequences that being unprepared can bring to the reasons behind why small businesses are such a target, prioritizing cybersecurity is critical as hackers continue to get smarter.
A cyber attack has a number of dangers involved — in fact, it’s estimated that by the year 2021, businesses will become a victim to ransomware every 11 seconds, with cyberattacks costing them more than $6 trillion annually. However, severe financial consequences aren’t the only dangers involved; cyber-attacks can also lead to the loss of sensitive information, and can even lead to a business shutting down for good.
One recent example of a damaging ransomware attack occurred in 2019 to a small medical practice in Michigan. After the practice refused to pay a ransom to unlock their files (of which included sensitive information like appointment schedules and payment information), the two doctors had to close their doors after the stolen files were permanently deleted by the hackers.
It’s important to remember that there are a number of different kinds of cyber attacks to be aware of. Along with the typically known threats such as malware, ransomware, and viruses, another particularly dangerous threat for small businesses involves fraudulent merchant accounts. For the many small businesses that accept credit card payments, going through a reputable merchant services provider is vital in protecting sensitive information. Merchant account scams can include hidden fee scams, as well as identity theft scams, which are a type of fraudulent merchant scam aimed at acquiring sensitive information.
While any business can fall victim to a cybersecurity attack, small businesses remain an easier and larger target for attackers. In fact, small businesses are the target of 43% of cyberattacks, according to one Verizon data breach report, and the reasons behind such statistics could be due to a variety of reasons.
For example, many small businesses may not have the financial resources to employ an IT team or be able to provide extensive training to their employees. In many cases, small business owners may not be aware that they are vulnerable to such attacks (or maybe too focused on other aspects of the business, like marketing) and may fail to implement any aspect of cybersecurity altogether, thus heightening the risks.
Remote work revolution
With many small businesses leaning on remote work methods or even choosing to operate entirely online in 2020, the need for cybersecurity measures and knowledge heightens even more. With more devices being used (such as employees’ laptops), there becomes even more of a margin for risk, and particularly so without any education on the matter. For example, phishing scams in the form of emails can be cleverly disguised as coming from legitimate sources, which can fool an employee into clicking on a link that installs a virus or leads to a scam.
In fact, almost 60% of business executives said that suspicious emails have increased over the past year, according to one survey by Munich Re’s Hartford Steam Boiler, proving them to be a rising concern among US small businesses. Another problem of more small businesses going digital is that many have had to adapt to new technology systems for the first time without much preparation or knowledge on how to do so safely. This can lead to preventable issues, such as a small business owner who might forgo two-step factor authorization when setting up their passwords on a website.
Preventing an attack
There are a number of ways that small businesses can prevent a cyber attack, from implementing simple precautions or even hiring a specialized team to stay on top of the matter. Along with employing an IT specialist or team (should the budget allow for it), training employees on current cybersecurity dangers and precautions is a must, as it can ward off a number of issues (such as the aforementioned phishing scams). Installing security software, as well as investing in the right cybersecurity insurance can also be vital in protecting businesses in the event that an attack ever does happen.
With small businesses being a large target to attackers, having the proper cybersecurity is becoming more and more of a necessity, especially in 2020. With many small businesses turning to remote work methods, the risks and dangers rise, proving that taking the proper precautions — like implementing training or an IT team — can be particularly beneficial. [IDN-InDepthNews – 15 November 2020]
Photo by Dan Nelson on Unsplash
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