The Cybersecurity Dilemma: Protecting Small Business Data in a Digital World

Many small businesses think cybersecurity attacks won’t happen to them—that hackers only go after large corporations. The reality is that smaller companies are are vulnerable to cyberattacks—over 40% of cyberattacks target small businesses—and the threats are rising. Small businesses typically don’t have the staff to dedicate to IT security, and with generally weaker cybersecurity measures, these are the companies that are most likely to be unprepared for the huge financial and reputational impact of a cyberattack. In this article, we’ll explore the most common cybersecurity threats that small businesses face, the impact of a data breach, and the best practices for improving cybersecurity measures and how to create a culture of security awareness among employees.

Common Cybersecurity Threats Targeting Small Businesses

Phishing Attacks: Social engineering attacks, such as phishing, spam, and email malware, are most commonly aimed at businesses with fewer than 250 employees. In fact, small businesses receive the highest rate of targeted emails: one in 323. Phishing is a type of scam which a hacker tricks a user into clicking on a link or opening an attachment, revealing sensitive information or unwittingly installing malware on company systems.

Ransomware: This type of malware encrypts a victim’s file so they can’t access their information, effectively holding their data for ransom. The hacker demands payment for the decryption key, downing service for days until the ransom is paid. The downtime and financial losses can cripple small business.

Malware and Viruses: At 18%, malware—software designed to infiltrate, damage or steal data—is the most common type of attack targeting small businesses. A study by Verizon found that that for the median small business, 94% of detected malware was through email.

Insider Threats: There three major employee-related sources for insider threats that compromise data security: employee negligence that accidentally deletes information; malicious employee or former employee with intent to harm the organization; and attackers who have stolen user credentials.

Potential Consequences of a Data Breach

Financial Loss: Direct costs associated with a breach, such as ransom payments, system recovery, and potential fines or lawsuits.

Reputation Damage: Loss of customer trust and credibility, which can lead to a decline in business.

Intellectual Property Theft: Theft of sensitive information, trade secrets, or proprietary data that can give competitors an unfair advantage.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Data breaches may lead to non-compliance with data protection laws, resulting in fines and penalties.

Tips and Best Practices for Improving Cybersecurity Measures

Regularly Update Software: Keep your operating systems, applications and firmware up to date with the latest versions, as these updates come with security patches to correct vulnerabilities.

Implement Strong Password Policies: Require the use of strong, unique passwords and enable multi-factor authentication for added security. For an additional layer of security, there is email encryption, which essentially disguising the information in your emails so that no one outside the organization can read its contents.

Conduct Regular Security Assessments: Identify vulnerabilities in your systems and networks, and take corrective action to reduce risks. It’s best to hire a third-party provider with cybersecurity experts who can perform penetrative testing to attempt to breach the system—revealing flaws that can be fixed.

Implement Backup and Recovery Plans: Keep your backups offline and regularly test your backup configuration to make sure it’s working and disconnected from any business network. Ensure your incident response plan includes steps for recovering business operations and a strategy for business continuity while your system recovers. And be sure to test this plan in a non-emergency situation so that you know your bases are covered.

Educate and Train Employees: Over half of security breaches are due to human error, such as opening an email that launches malware or revealing sensitive company information through a phishing attempt. Provide ongoing cybersecurity training to all employees, emphasizing the importance of security awareness and best practices.

Creating a Culture of Security Awareness Among Employees

Make Cybersecurity a Priority: Establish a top-down approach, with management actively promoting cybersecurity best practices.

Communicate Expectations: Clearly communicate security policies and procedures, ensuring employees understand their roles and responsibilities.

Foster a Security-Minded Workforce: Encourage employees to report suspicious activity and reward those who proactively contribute to the organization’s security.

Conduct Regular Training and Awareness Programs: Keep employees informed about the latest threats and provide them with the necessary tools to recognize and respond to them effectively.

Protecting small business data in a digital world is an ongoing challenge. A managed service provider (MSP) with extensive experience in cybersecurity can help small businesses minimize their risks and create a culture of security awareness among employees. For more than a decade, SYMBITS has provided flexible cybersecurity solutions to small businesses. We monitor and manage systems, handle upgrades, system changes, and safeguard valuable data. Find out how we can work with your organization—whether it’s supporting your existing IT department, or designing and implementing a completed outsourced cybersecurity solution. Get in touch with Geovani Aday, COO of SYMBITS at [email protected]