Small Businesses Should Take Steps to Protect Themselves
Cybersecurity in our digital age is something people and businesses need to be wary of constantly. However, many small businesses do not take the proper steps to protect themselves and their customers. On average, only about 14% of small businesses take the time and effort to use cybersecurity and protect their computers and software from cyberattacks. However, almost half of all cyberattacks are carried out on small businesses. We will discuss what cybersecurity is, the top four cyberattacks to be wary of, and preventative measures you need to take to protect your businesses and your customers.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is essentially the way that companies, websites, and people protect online data and devices from harm or theft.
Using cybersecurity to protect a business is not an easy task. Each form of protection needs to be tailored to the business and encompass all devices and systems. This includes your internet connection and even your employees.
Cybersecurity is also not a one-and-done application. Your cybersecurity must be frequently upgraded and adjusted as the internet grows and new scams are created to fully protect your business.
What Are The 4 Main Types of Attacks?
Malware encompasses a broad spectrum of cyberattacks. Basically, any software created to hurt part of your digital system.
Some of the most common types of malware (not including ransomware) are:
- Trojans: Malware that appears to be a helpful code in your system
- Keyloggers: A program that tracks keystrokes on a computer or device
- Spyware: Collects data
- Worms: It replicates itself and spreads through the network.
Malware can get into computers due to untrustworthy emails, downloads, or even items plugged into your computer like phones or USBs. Even if a software is trustworthy, it may be bundled with a suspicious line of code or application that can release malware.
Ransomware is a form of malware that occurs when a hacker locks files, programs, or data. Generally, as the name suggests, a hacker will demand payment before rereleasing the information to the company. However, there is never any guarantee that the data will be returned after payment is complete.
It can be almost impossible to recover data that is collected this way.
Ransomware can be spread through unprotected Wi-Fi, emails, links, downloads, or dangerous websites. However, suspicious emails are the most common.
Social engineering attacks are often overlooked when setting up security on your data. This is because it involves social interactions and not necessarily any bots or programs on the computer itself.
The people who instigate these attacks try to convince a business or person to break usual security measures to access software or data. This can be due to dangerous emails opened, suspicious links, or some other simple mistake. They can also play on an employee’s or even your own emotions.
In 2019, these social hacks made up over 90% of all reported scams and data breaches.
Phishing is a social engineering attack that usually involves a hacker pretending to be someone else to get money or sensitive information. This may be someone official, such as a member of the IRS, or just a friend or coworker.
The hacker will send an email, text, or message through a social media account of someone, and they will ask you to send money. They could pretend to be a friend asking for it as a favor, or pretend to be from the IRS, or that something was handled wrong on your taxes and they need more information.
Why Are Small Businesses More Vulnerable?
Constantly updating your cybersecurity and training staff is costly. Small businesses often don’t have the funds to integrate top-of-the-line cybersecurity measures and keep them upgraded as more programs and cyberattacks come out.
This makes it easier for hackers to target small mom-and-pop businesses over large corporations such as Google. While these big companies can still be attacked, it is more challenging to get through their security than it would be for smaller businesses.
Many small businesses are also vulnerable as they don’t even bother to protect their data. Up to 82% of small businesses don’t even set up real security measures as they don’t believe they are at risk or worth being hacked.
However, Visa said that most credit card breaches, well over 90%, come from small businesses. This could be due to their lack of security. So not only can hackers access your financial information, but that of your customers as well.
What Cybersecurity Risks Small Businesses Face
Cybersecurity measures cost a lot of money. However, an attack from a hacker can put you out of business. In 2020, 43% of all cyberattacks were on small businesses. Of those attacked, 60% went out of business within six months of the attack.
It is estimated that small and medium businesses lost over $2.2 million to cybercrimes. Estimates say that even figuring out where the attack came from could cost over $15,000.
Not only does a lot of money come out of your pocket due to paying hackers and trying to mitigate current breaches, but you may also lose customers. Once customers find out that a leak of their information came from you, they may be hesitant to return to your store.
So not only are you spending thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair an issue caused by a cyberattack, you are losing the people that can help your business offset that cost.
This is why it is so important to set up preventative measures early. Upgrades and training might cost a lot of money, but it is worth it to ensure your customer’s and business’s safety.
How to Prevent Cybersecurity Risks
Proper training of your employees is the first step. With social and phishing attacks being the most common, it will likely be human error that causes the issue in the first place. For this reason, you want to make sure all of your employees are trained on procedures and guidelines.
How to Avoid Cybersecurity Risks
Here are some key tips to consider when implementing training for your employees:
- Keep the business Wi-Fi separate, secure, encrypted, and hidden. Having your public and business Wi-Fi the same makes it easy for hackers to access your information. Instead, make sure the credit card machines, personal data, and private information are used on a separate Wi-Fi encoded and hidden to protect any device that uses that router.
- Create an account for each employee and control access to your computers. If an employee has to walk away for some reason and leave the front computer open, it is easy for a hacker to get the information they need. Laptops, especially, are easy to steal, so make sure they are locked up when not in use. However, adding employee passwords and logins to important programs and data reduces the likelihood of that data being stolen.
- Limit how much data employees can access. There is no need for one employee to have access to your whole system. Ensure an employee can only access the information pertinent to their job and not install any new programs or software without your permission.
- Revoke employee abilities as soon as an employee is fired or quits. It is best to ensure that an employee’s login information no longer works as soon as they are fired or quit. This is to prevent any disgruntled employees from collecting or ruining information.
- Multi-level passwords and authentication. By changing passwords every three months, you reduce the risk of the information being stolen. Also, adding another level of security through a two-step login minimizes the risk of anyone gathering information from an employee’s login information.
- Constantly upgrade all of your software. If your software and programs aren’t up to date, they can quickly be targeted by malware or hackers. Keeping your programs up to date means you have the most effective software and tools to fight against cyberattacks.
- Train your employees. It is crucial to ensure employees know not to give away any personal information or data to anyone, no matter who they claim to be. Teach them not to open or download any suspicious files, emails, links, or texts, even from someone they know. Not only is it important to follow this on the company devices, but even their own devices can cause a leak in the business if they aren’t careful. For this reason, it is essential to inform and update employees on ways to prevent cyberattacks.
It is also important to have a plan or person in place to help mitigate the issues when they appear. For example, if someone is attempting to hack you, it is good to have a person or team dedicated to being able to help you prevent the issue.
How to Detect Cybersecurity Risks
Signs of cybersecurity risks include:
- A slow computer
- Fast battery drain
- Unfamiliar apps or programs on your device
- Deleted files
- Contacts receiving strange messages that say they are from you.
There can also be warnings when someone is trying to steal your information that is important to look out for.
- Someone attempting to change passwords without authorization
- Multiple login attempts without success
- Large data transfers to an unknown location, USB, or IP address
The most important part of detecting security risks is being aware and vigilant. The sooner you can recognize and catch anything strange on your devices, the quicker you can prevent any cyberattacks.
What to Do if Your Business Is Compromised
If your business is compromised, it is important to act quickly. The first steps are to determine what information was gathered and inform your web-hosting service and any other program, website, or software you use to let them know the hack has occurred. They may be able to take steps on their end to prevent the issue from going any further and might even have an idea of how to help your business.
The next step is to inform your customers. It might be scary and seem easier not to inform them. However, you should provide written notification to let your customers know what information was taken and how this might affect them so they can be prepared. This not only allows your customers to take steps to protect themselves early on but is likely to keep them willing to come back to your business as they know you can be honest and trustworthy.
During this process, it is important to be transparent as well. Even if you are embarrassed about how the information got leaked, give as much information to the authorities, legal teams, and anyone else that is trying to help you, so they know how to prevent hacks such as these in the future. They can also help you close up the leak and maybe even get data back.
Finally, once the leaks have been dealt with, it is important to update your security. You know what caused the leak, and you can focus on upgrading the software or employee training to prevent such issues from happening in the future.
Scams and cyber attacks can happen to anyone, even large companies that can afford the best security. It is important to move as quickly as possible and be honest so that the damage can be mitigated. Being embarrassed or upset and trying to withhold information will only hurt you further.
The Cybersecurity Risks Small Businesses Face
Making time for training, having a dedicated team or person to fight against hackers, and having the most up-to-date devices, programs, and software can be expensive. However, with over half of small businesses that face a cyberattack going out of business within six months of the attack, it is worth investing in these preventative measures.
Social attacks and human error are the easiest ways for scams and cyberattacks to work. It is best to focus on training your employees and reducing the amount of information each employee has.
Almost everyone faces some sort of cyberattack every day, even if they don’t realize it. If you are faced with a cyberattack, it is important to remember to act quickly and be honest and upfront with any websites, companies, or officials trying to help you, as well as your customers. Cybersecurity can be intimidating, but by focusing on your employees, you can mitigate many attacks easily.
Are you concerned about the cybersecurity of your company? Edge Networks can help! If you’d like to find out how your company is performing and isolate weaknesses in your cyber defenses, schedule a call with us or take our free, self-guided IT Security Risk Assessment .