Many small business owners hold the belief that problems don’t need to be dealt with until they arise. In most situations this is an excellent approach to take, as small and mid-size businesses face challenges unique from those faced by larger corporations. This rule is not universal however – the distinction between large and small businesses is rapidly disappearing in the world of cyber crime. Small business owners need to be proactive in protecting themselves and their data from threats that are equal in magnitude and frequency to those affecting large corporations.
Why are Small Businesses Targeted?
Small businesses are targeted by cyber criminals for many reasons, and some of them may surprise you! While some businesses are targeted for their intellectual property (such as innovative ideas or client records), others are targeted as a stepping stone towards larger businesses that they may partner with. Other cyber criminals target small businesses’ websites as a way to spread malware. The number one reason that small businesses are targeted however, is because the protection measures set around their data are so minimal that breaching the security parameters is a walk in the park for most hackers.
Who is Targeting Small Businesses?
When we picture someone breaching a company’s cyber security measures, we tend to picture the typical “hacker” sitting in a dark room thousands of miles away. While cyber criminals are definitely a legitimate concern (especially since many now use automated software to attack any websites that fit certain parameters), it is also important to consider those closer to your business. With the amount of information available online, anyone can learn methods to access important information. This wider cross-section of people can include unhappy past employees, and competitors in your industry who already have access to some information about your company without any hacking at all.
How are Small Businesses Most Commonly Targeted?
Small businesses are not often targeted in the way that high-profile companies are. Recent cyber attacks on large corporations have been done for publicity or for a political statement, and as such have been very obvious. Cyber criminals targeting small businesses are more likely to use unobtrusive methods, allowing your website to run as usual while also using it as a platform to infect the computers of everyone who visits it. Other common methods of attack include company social media accounts, malware links in e-mails or physical theft of your data (in the form of stolen laptops and backup drives, for example).
How will a Cyber Attack affect My Business?
The effects of a cyber attack are far-reaching. Having websites that are unsafe for customers, or inadvertently sharing customer data can impact customer satisfaction with your company and incur costly legal fees. Attacks that gain access to your banking information can cause significant financial losses that you may not be protected from. Lastly, small businesses dealing with sensitive information who have their cyber security breached may be inadvertently be breaking laws – for example, medical information being leaked would be a violation of HIPAA.
What Can I Do to Keep My Information Safe?
One of the biggest steps you can take towards keeping your business protected from cyber security threats is simply being aware of the fact that you are a target. Now that you are aware, you can take actions to protect yourself and your company. It may be worthwhile to outsource many of the technological aspects to a Cyber Security Professional as they will have an advanced understanding of the threats facing your industry. As well, there are several simple precautions that you can take that will significantly help to prevent cyber attacks. Firstly, educate your staff about the threats that your company faces, and the importance of internet safety. Secondly, use separate passwords for your personal accounts and your business accounts – and make sure that they are hard to break! Third, back up your data and store it in a secure physical location separate from your main office.
Cyber security attacks are inevitable in today’s world, but by being aware of the threats to your company and the methods of prevention available, you will be able to avoid some of the most serious of threats, and limit the severity of the attacks that do target you. When it comes to cyber security, the best defence you can have really is a good offence, and it’s never too soon to implement a cyber security strategy.