Bullies always target the weak. Cybercriminals always look for the weakest targets and strike with all their might. Massive corporations often make the news when they get breached, and they invest millions of dollars to protect their data. But that’s not the case for small and medium-sized businesses.
They’re still vulnerable and attractive to hackers. Apart from working hard to float in these trying times, almost all of them have one blind spot. They don’t realize how vulnerable they are to cybercrime. It’s understandable. Small and medium businesses don’t have as much money to invest in cybersecurity. But they can still protect themselves by following good practices.
How Serious Is This Problem?
Cyberattacks through malicious texts, phishing emails, and data breaches are becoming a national concern. When a small business gets hacked, it doesn’t make the news. We only hear stories about millions of dollars when companies like Microsoft, Amazon, or Google get attacked. That’s one of the reasons why small and medium businesses often don’t report breaches and hacks.
Even though that’s the case, the numbers are staggering. Close to 50% of all cyberattacks directly target small and medium businesses. And it’s only going to get worse.
Another part of the problem is that most owners think they’re safe from breaches. Yet, they don’t have an action plan in case it happens.
Attackers sell data and personal records on the black market. The breached company suffers profits and its reputation. Owners think being safe is all up to the best software and investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in hiring cybersecurity experts. It’s not. Making a few changes in how employees use their devices is enough to make it hard enough for a hacker to move on to the next target. But before you learn how to defend yourself from an attack, you must know where it’s coming from.
What Are The Cyberattacks Targeting Small And Medium Businesses?
Ransomware is the number one cyberattack to know. It’s a virtual hostage situation. You download or install a malicious file, and a hacker gains control. They lock sensitive data and ask for a lot of money to unlock it.
Small companies have two choices. Option A is paying the ransom. They hope the hacker will unlock the data after paying the price, and they can continue working. That’s what a small furniture company did when they cashed out 150,000 dollars to stay in business. Option B is not paying the ransom. In that case, the hackers can make the data leak public or sell it to bad actors who will abuse it. Keep in mind that 70% of all ransomware attacks focus on small and medium businesses.
Password attacks come at spot number two. You don’t want to lose your credentials. Yet, 80% of successful breaches happen because people don’t put effort into their passwords. Usually, it’s a brute-force approach. They know the email, and a supercomputer tests millions of combinations to guess the correct one. It’s a simple approach, but it’s super effective. Phishing is another way of getting user credentials. When that happens, hackers have everything they need to handle finances, systems, and other contacts.
Best Cybersecurity Practices For Small And Medium Businesses
No one likes paying six figures for a breach that could have been avoided. Instead, you can take a fraction of that amount and invest in three things: an antivirus, a VPN, and employee training. For the first two, you just get a subscription. Employee training will take more time and resources, but it’s more than worth it.
Most operating systems have firewalls in place to protect against malware and unwanted applications. But a firewall is not the same as an antivirus. Antivirus programs scan every file and check for malicious code. If there’s a virus inside, the program deletes it instantly without giving it a chance to download extra resources or harm your device. Make a routine to scan all devices at the same time and regularly update the software.
It doesn’t matter if it’s only you or a team of 50 people. You need a virtual private network to browse the web securely. You click a button, and your dedicated IP changes to a remote server. VPNs have the highest return on investment when you include price. A single subscription covers six devices. The reason VPNs are so powerful is because they encrypt your data online. Even if a hacker breaches it, they’ll only see jumbled numbers and letters. Most VPNs come with a kill switch. That’s a feature that automatically disconnects you from the internet if the VPN crashes or there’s a risk of a data leak.
The last step of every successful cybersecurity program is employee training. In a way, it’s also the hardest one to implement. VPNs and antiviruses work independently. You install them once, click a button, and that’s it. But employee training is a continuous process that never ends.
You need to train your team to identify phishing attacks, follow good email policies, create secure passwords, and how respond to cyberattacks. The cybersecurity world is constantly evolving. Your training should evolve too.
Instead of hosting boring presentations, or giving our books and leaflets, perform demos. Send a phishing email to your entire company and see the success rate. With that baseline, you can show the harm that could have happened and work towards being better. All it takes is one misleading email to ruin a small or medium business. Help your team members to identify it and not click on it.