It was recently reported that 91% of businesses now have some form of digital initiative and that 70% of all customer engagements will be driven via intelligent systems. It’s essential for companies of all sizes to use the internet. It’s used for everything from online banking to eSigning documents. Therefore small businesses must understand the potential security threats that they can face.
Using online tools comes with risks. In 2021 4,145 publicly recorded breaches resulted in 22 billion exposed records. Companies affected by these breaches included Facebook, Linkedin, and Instagram.
With thousands of attacks taking place each year. Perhaps you’re thinking, “we’re only a small business; we’ve got nothing to worry about.” Consider that in 43% of attacks, small businesses were targeted. That’s according to Verizon's 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report.
We will examine the kinds of attacks small businesses fall prey to. We’ll also look at realistic cybersecurity measures you can put in place.
Know the Risks
There's a raft of methods used by cybercriminals to carry out their objectives. Some are more sophisticated than others. It’s unlikely your company harbors state secrets, so we’re talking about the profit motive. Criminals make money by selling stolen data on the dark web. As a small business, cyber threats include but are not limited to
Credential theft through phishing.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS).
Let’s take a closer look at some of the methods employed by these villains.
Criminals use malicious software, known as malware, to gain access to secure systems. It's used to track online activity or steal data. Victims are tricked into downloading it through links on unsecured websites. You may, for example, come across a link for free eSignature software. Don’t click it! Do your homework and find the best electronic signature service that’s safe and secure.
Phishing describes when bad actors send emails posing as legitimate organizations. It's an attempt to get their hands on sensitive information. This may include login credentials or financial information. They often contain links to fake websites designed to appear genuine. Victims unknowingly type their information in and send it directly to the criminals.
Also, be aware of spear-phishing. In these cases, perpetrators will already have some information about their victims. This allows for a more targeted approach. For example, they may know that you bank with Wells Fargo. Therefore, they’ll design their communications to appear as originating from that institution.
Cybercriminals install software to lock systems access to anyone but the criminals. They employ complex encryption, the key to which is only released upon payment of a ransom. A staggering 82% of these attacks target small businesses.
Distributed denial of service attacks are designed to bring down your website. Perpetrators infect multiple systems with malware that turns them into “bots.” The infected systems are called a botnet. Cybercriminals can control the botnet. They order it to overwhelm a targeted website, making it inaccessible to legitimate visitors.
How to mitigate the risks: Best practices for your small business
We’ve looked at a lot of scary stuff here. Don’t panic. There are simple and cost-effective measures you can take to reduce the risks. The best way to deal with cybercrime is through preparedness. Let’s examine some methods for protecting your business.
Software best practices
Ensure your business only uses legitimate software from reputable developers. Cutting corners on software saves money in the short term, but it’ll come back to bite you. Bugs or security flaws provide cybercriminals with an opening. Good software developers use methods such as testing in continuous integration. This delivers a functional and secure product.
Rather than relying on a direct connection to a server, an increasing number of businesses choose to utilize cloud technology. It’s becoming increasingly popular due to the benefits offered for security, efficiency, flexibility, and convenience. Cloud email security helps to protect businesses from email-borne cyberattacks with an intelligent, fully-supported email security solution.
It’s vital to keep operating systems and browsers up to date. When providers of those services become aware of security threats, they quickly respond with updates. The same goes for any software on which your small business relies. Ensure you do the same with any mobile devices.
If there’s software present on systems that’s no longer in use, remove it. Recently, Microsoft has pulled the plug on support for Internet Explorer. There will no longer be updates provided for the once ubiquitous browser. Current users of IE are opening themselves up to unnecessary risks.
Your business must always consider the risks when conducting business online. Through training, you can instill best practices in your teams. This is how you’ll avoid the dangers of phishing and malware attacks. Here are some tips on how to be vigilant.
Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
Check email addresses match with the purported organization’s known addresses.
Hover over links to reveal the address before clicking.
Check emails for spelling or grammar mistakes.
Never give out information over email to an unverified addressee.
Modern anti-virus software is a marvel. They use AI, machine learning, and CNNs. (Convolutional neural networks are used for spatial analysis and finding patterns in images). These technologies can automatically scan your systems. Although Windows has some robust protections, adding extra security is advisable. Anti-virus specialists are experts in their fields. Use that expertise to protect your business from innumerable cyber threats.
Failure to protect your business from cybercrime can result in major costs. It’s always a good time to conduct an audit of your cyber health. If you’re concerned cybersecurity is lacking, make a plan and implement it. Follow the advice above to be safe when operating online.