If you have tuned into any news outlet over the last few years, chances are you’re aware of incidents involving large corporations dealing with major data breaches where potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers have been affected. Unfortunately, despite the lack of exposure, large organizations are not the only businesses at risk, small businesses are frequently favored targets.
It is not often you hear about the breaches involving small businesses, mainly because these attacks do not become public knowledge. In actual fact, small businesses are just as at risk for cyberattacks because they fall into what one could call a “sweet spot” for hackers as they tend to have significantly more digital, and financial assets to target than an individual, however they also lack the security provided by a large corporation.
According to the 2018 Hiscox Small Business Cybersecurity Report, while an overwhelming 47% of small businesses experienced an attack in the past 12 months, only 52% actually have a cybersecurity strategy in place.
Don’t Small Businesses Care about Cybersecurity?
Truthfully, this is not the whole story. It would be unfair to assume small businesses do not care about their cybersecurity, however, they may often assume an “out of sight, out of mind” approach. Despite statistics and news coverage surrounding cybersecurity tips for business owners, smaller organizations consistently overlook the true risk of a cyberattack.
Regrettably, an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality can have catastrophic consequences. If a small business owner fails to protect their business from cybersecurity threats, they may find themselves as the victim of a breach, compromising critical client data, the organization’s financial stability and business operations, inevitably leading to irreparable brand damage.
Taking Control of Your Small Business’s Cybersecurity Risk
One of the major reasons that small businesses do not put enough care towards cybersecurity is a lack of understanding and awareness. To be fair, there is a lot to know, however this does not justify burying one’s head in the sand and hoping for the best. Below are some very easy steps you can start with that can dramatically improve your company’s cybersecurity posture.
1. Improve Password Strength
If you are confused about where to start, make it password strength. Far too often, employees and executives find themselves in the trap of using simplistic passwords that are very easy to hack. To compound the issue, very often we see passwords repeated from one platform, website or program to the next. In other words, if an attacker compromises one of your passwords, the potential for damage increases many times over.
Brute-force Attacks: This is when an attacker uses an automated program that will attempt a variety of potential password combinations, often is rapid succession in order to gain access to the desired platform.
Brute-force attacks are particularly effective against organizations with obvious username information and simplistic passwords.
Thus, strengthening your organization’s password requirements and the frequency at which they are required to change can immediately reduce the risk of a successful cyberattack. It would be wise to use a minimum of 8-12 characters, with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters to reduce the risk of successful brute-force attacks.
2. Create Company-Wide Awareness: Make It a Priority
The stereotypical silhouette of an overseas hacker, set in a dark room, hoodie up, behind a series of screens littered in computer coding can have many believing that hackers can do it all on their own, but that’s not always the case. A lot of the time, one of your employees may have unintentionally made the process a whole lot easier for them via social engineering campaigns, such as phishing.
Employee negligence and emails are still the number one cause for data breaches in small business operations. Two examples of this include phishing campaigns and ransomware attacks.
Phishing campaigns are a lot like they sound, in the sense that, cybercriminals use a variety of tactics in an effort to lure unsuspecting users with bait (usually in the form of emails), in order to trick them into disclosing some form of personal detail or data that will allow them to compromise a user’s login credentials.
Small businesses need to also be aware of ransomware attacks, which happen when malware infects a user’s computer and holds it “digitally hostage”, until a ransom is paid.
To summarize, if small business owners are willing to take the time to educate their staff, on a regular basis, regarding good internet hygiene, good browsing habits, not clicking suspicious links, spotting phishing emails, and not downloading suspicious files, the risk of a breach can be greatly reduced.
A great option here is bringing in a cybersecurity company to do regular, current training. The truth is, the cyber threat landscape is expanding and evolving faster than most internal teams can keep up with. Calling in the experts will help to ensure your staff are up to date with the current cyber threats.
3. Perform a Penetration Test
Finally, the most valuable option of our list is penetration testing. In order to figure out where your small business stands, a penetration test (pentest) can prove an invaluable asset to every organization’s security. A pentest will evaluate the security of your company’s infrastructure and web applications to let you know where your money is best allocated, in order of priority, to create the most secure environment possible.
A qualified penetration testing firm will simulate real world attacks and provide a concise, easy to read report that will to let you know where your vulnerabilities are, ordered from low to critical. This will serve to indicate where your time and resources are best focused.
Fortunately, there are many remediation efforts that will not require any great expense, however, they can provide your brand with the peace of mind it requires to ensure healthy business operations.
For help choosing a penetration testing company, further clarification of why your organization needs a penetration test or anything else here, please contact us for more information.