From the biggest corporations to the smallest of ventures, the presence of good cybersecurity has become a vital success factor. Starting and running your own business has its inherent risks, but some are more common than others, and certain cybersecurity threats have become more prevalent than ever before.
This is partly due to the fact that business leaders often perceive their businesses as more impervious to such threats, not because of their advanced security measures, but because of the size of their company. Many wrongfully assume that only large-scale corporations are at risk, whereas smaller companies don’t seem to be that appealing as targets.
The opposite is actually true. Hackers will often target small businesses precisely because they contain a wealth of sensitive and potentially lucurative data without all the high-end security to bypass. Considering the growth rate of the small business sector across most major industries, the sheer number of small businesses makes them better targets, too.
Common Cybersecurity Threats Among Small Businesses
Knowing your enemy and your potential risk is always helpful when you’re devising a strategy to protect your assets. Below, we’re going to examine a few of the most common cybersecurity threats to your business and pair them with a few suggestions on how to protect your brand’s essential data and systems.
1. The Power of Malware
Versed hackers don’t do the dirty work themselves – they create advanced software that performs all kinds of malicious activity to find, collect, and steal data. These bits of software and code are collective known as malware. Malware, or malicious software, is any program or file that harms a computer or its user. Malware programs can steal, encrypt or delete sensitive data, alter or hijack key computing functions and to monitor the victim’s computer activity.
At the time of writing there are dozens of known types of malware, each with its own unique characteristics. Spyware, for instance, keeps track of your business activities and steals information of value, while ransomware can encrypt your most valuable data and then ask for a ransom to hand you over the decryption key. There are also all kinds of viruses and adware that can infect your business network.
To prevent such software from ever reaching your devices, you need an all-encompassing security approach, including anti-malware software and hardware, data security best practices and employee training to cover all your bases.
2. Inadequate network protection
In addition to protecting your individual devices with the right security-boosting software and scanning tools, you need to think of your business network in its entirety. If it doesn’t have the necessary protection, you risk losing data and leading hackers straight to your most sensitive business databases. To prevent such malicious attacks and keep your network safe, you can introduce a small business firewall to present a physical barrier for malicious threats.
Comprehensive firewall protection allows you to constantly monitor your network, update your security measures, and keep malicious threats at bay. Another perk of such an option is that it’s fairly low-maintenance, allowing you to focus on other business goals while your security is taken care of.
3. Internal data threats
Whether intentionally or unknowingly, your employees might become your greatest source of data security risk. Actions such as failing to adhere to security protocols, using the same passwords for more than one account, and sharing sensitive information with a third party without checking if they have such clearance, can leave your data vulnerable to cyber criminals who seek to exploit it.
Dealing with internally-sourced data breeches requires a two-pronged approach. On one hand, you should inquire about automated systems designed to identify and contain suspicious activity while protecting your network. On the other hand, you need to spend sufficient resources on ongoing employee training and education. You can add security workshops, for example, to your onboarding procedure to ensure that anyone joining your organization is properly educated to handle all of your business devices, tools, and data.
4. Skipping software updates and patches
Your IT experts likely know why software updates and system updates are so essential for your business. However, if your graphic designer, content writer, or your social media manager doesn’t fully grasp the importance of updates and patches, then you need to educate them and set up a schedule for regular software maintenance for your employees.
By postponing updates, you expose your business and your data to cyberattacks and you make it much easier for someone to reach your most sensitive business information through these faulty programs. Updates serve to provide security patches so that you can run your business smoothly, and this is a vital component of your security strategy for the future.
5. Social engineering attacks
Social engineering attacks involve a wide range of malicious activities that are initiated through human interaction. Cyber criminals will rely on psychological manipulation to trick users into making security mistakes or giving away confidential information.
Phishing attacks, for example, are surprisingly common in small businesses. Phishing is a type of cyber attack often used to steal user data, such as login credentials and credit card numbers. In this case, the cyber criminal pretends to be a trusted entity, that tricks people into opening an email, instant message, or text message.
Only employees with enough knowledge and trainin to recognize the smallest cues will be able to see through such a scheme and not fall for it. However, hackers are getting more refined with their attacks, so it’s safe to assume that some of them might fall through the security cracks.
By regulating access control and reducing the number of people who have access to the most sensitive data (more on this below), and by adding scanning tools to spot malicious software and links, you’ll help your employees spot social engineering from a mile away.
6. No password regulations
While you can educate your employees and train them to spot risky emails and threats in the system, you also need to provide them with the right tools to make it easier for them to ensure business-wide security. Individual account management with airtight passwords provides a staggering advantage for the organization as a whole.
To enable that, offer your teams to use a trusted password manager to store and generate passwords for their most secure accounts within your business. That way, their project management tools, email accounts, cloud access, and CMS platforms will remain securely locked from prying eyes. Add two-factor authentication into the mix, and you’ll strengthen your accounts even more.
7. No access control and management
Do you have a clear hierarchy as to who can access which portions of your data and who can access your most sensitive customer data or employee files? If not, you risk exposing your business to internal leaks and threats that could jeopardize your data integrity and business security for the long haul. Access control is a simple enough process to implement and fairly easy to monitor with your network access control system and by assigning specific credentials to employees.
There will always be some risk in running a business, especially in the online realm, but you can reduce the risk by taking precautions and keeping your data and your processes secure. By recognizing these threats and by finding the most suitable solutions to match your business needs, you can help your business greatly and allow yourself to focus on growth and other vital aspects of your company, with peace of mind and confidence that your assets are secure.
Emma Worden, a startup funding consultant from Sydney and a blogger at bizzmarkblog.com.