A Public Service Announcement released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed some shocking facts that every small and large business owner should carefully note. Between the months from January 2015 and December 2016, the world has experienced a 2,370% rise in the monetary losses resulting from cyber attacks. All 50 states of the U.S. and 131 countries reported that they have been victims of fraudulent financial transactions.
As a business owner, you must also keep in mind that a majority of security leaks go unreported since companies do not have the means of detecting any intrusion by cyber criminals. Small businesses are the worst hit with 71% of companies employing less than 100 workers becoming the victims of cyber attacks. Further, studies have found that at least 60% of small companies are likely to close shop within a few months of suffering an attack.
As Chairman of the Small Business Committee, Steve Chabot says, “With all of the uncertainty facing small businesses in today’s world of e-commerce, it will take vigilance by all federal agencies and the watchful eye of this [Small Business] Committee to ensure the data of small businesses and individual Americans remains secure.”
Small Businesses are in Complete Denial Making them Perfect Targets
Statistics also reveal an important factor. Small and micro businesses are the easiest of targets of cybercrime – for the simple reason that their owners do not view the organizations as having funds or digital assets worth stealing. Close to 82% of owners feel they don’t need to secure their companies. They don’t realize that cyber attacks have the potential to lower productivity levels and result in heavy losses of sensitive data that they acquire and use for providing goods and services to their customers. Should an information leak occur, companies can lose their reputation with customers moving on to competitors whose digital systems are more secure.
Small Businesses May Have a BYOD Policy
To conserve resources, small companies may have a BYOD policy where they allow employees to use their own devices for conducting operations. This policy can open easy accesses to cyber attacks. That’s because employees might use their equipment for downloading games and other applications, shopping, banking, and checking emails and opening attachments that could potentially contain malware. In case family members also share their gadgets, the companies could become vulnerable to phishing attacks.
Small Businesses Don’t Insist on the Use of Secure Networks
Small business owners may not fully understand the importance of using only secure networks for performing company activities. It is now a common practice to purchase and assign refurbished laptops, cellphones, tablets, and desktop computers to employees for company use. At the same time, owners don’t conduct workshops to train their workers carefully on the use of the gadgets. Even if the devices are used in remote locations such as airports, cafeterias, hotels, employees must understand the importance of using hotpots created by their smartphones to open company emails and other cloud storage applications. Educating them on the use of complicated passwords to protect critical work data is another essential exercise to deter cyber attacks.
Small Businesses May Not Have Adequate Protection for Devices
Company equipment typically contains access to business information, customer credentials, files, contact details, passwords, and intellectual property. If these devices were to get lost and fall into the hands of hackers, the IT security of the company, its clients, and business partners could get compromised. Small businesses are typically not prepared for such eventualities with encryption applications for the data, firewalls, and antivirus software that can make it impossible for cyber criminals to decipher the data in the devices.
The National Cyber Security Alliance reports some alarming facts:
- 77% of small enterprises don’t have a network security protocol for employees
- 63% don’t have rules on how workers can access and use social media websites.
- 45% have never trained their employees on the safe use of the internet.
Small Businesses Don’t Have a Security Breach Response Plan
In case an attack occurs, small enterprises do not have a response plan in place to deal with the fallout. They rarely have backups of the vital data they need for their operations or failsafe measures to employ in case malware locks them out of their digital networks. Given that they have fewer resources to allocate to cyber security, they may not have experts on board who can instantly detect and deter an intrusion.
Small Businesses May Partner with Larger Companies
Cyber criminals are very likely to attack smaller companies that regularly conduct business with larger companies as suppliers, vendors, marketers, delivery agents, or any other. These third party business partners can form a gateway to the more secure digital systems of larger companies. To quote an example, the infamous security breach that involved corporate giant, Target, was initiated by way of a phishing email opened by an employee of Fazio Mechanical, a refrigeration contractor working with Target.
Given the rapidly evolving conditions of the cyber world, small companies can no longer ignore the eventuality of hackers and cyber attacks. They must take the necessary measures to protect their IT systems and fortify them. The first step involves hiring the services of an expert digital security team that can conduct a thorough evaluation and advise them on the weak links. Getting cyber security insurance is another effective method to ensure that the company can survive an attack and remain functional for a long time to come.