Cyber Security Threats to Small Businesses

Finding solutions to four of the most common cyber security threats

It can happen while you’re checking the weather on your local news app or perusing the latest Buzzfeed list.

It could be something as small as having your dog’s name be your password for everything from your work email to your Starbucks app. (And, note to self, adding the number 1 to the end of the name doesn’t really help).

Honestly, it can happen in your sleep. And no one is safe.

While it’s no secret to any Internet user that cyber attacks are consistently on the rise, there is a startling trend in cyber security breaches that you need to be aware of in 2017.

Research by BizTech reveals cyber security for small business is of the utmost importance now more than ever before as hackers shift their focus toward companies that formerly flew under the radar.

The Federal Communications Commission is warning small businesses to ramp up cyber security however possible using resources like its recently released Cybersecurity Tip Sheet.

What the need for increased cyber security for businesses means from a practical standpoint is greatly important for any business despite its size.

Here are four of the most common cyber security threats experts are offering to small businesses in 2017:

The problem: Phishing

The solution: BizTech goes as far as to call phishing the number one concern for small business owners in 2017. Why? Because scammers are constantly ahead of the curve with new strategies, techniques and tactics using every platform imaginable. From e-mail to texts and social media posts, nothing is safe from effective malware.

Identifying ways to protect your business from cyber security threats starts in the same realm the hackers are targeting: the human element. Combatting it begins there, by empowering employees to know how to suspect suspicious communication and understand when not to click on something from someone they don’t know.

It may not seem as efficient at the moment to invest valuable employee time on education regarding the danger of encrypted web sites or pop-ups, but even the occasional mention of such things during a routine meeting can help prevent an attack.

The problem: What data loss can mean for a business

The solution: First of all, acknowledging there is a need for cyber security in business is the first step to protecting one against attack. This is true particularly in a world where a recent study conducted by Kaspersky Lab found 90 percent of businesses of all sizes had admitted to having some kind of security incident.

What happens as a result of those kinds of breaches is not only troubling from the standpoint of the exposure of sensitive data, but also is capable of shutting a business down entirely. The same study found the cost to recover from a data breach averaged around $38,000 for small businesses, a cost too high for many to bear.

Intelligent security capable of monitoring, and thereby potentially preventing data loss, is an option. Another option that goes back to basics is intelligent employees. Taking time to educate employees about the importance of understanding cyber security in business is a small investment to make considering the bigger picture.

The FCC recommends training employees in security principles as soon as possible. That means helping facilitate the development of strong passwords and respecting how the Internet is used in the workplace. That also means putting a proper system in place to penalize those who do not adhere to company standards and policies.

The problem: Password vulnerability

The solution: One of the most common problems in cyber security has one of the easiest fixes. Everyone knows it can be a pain to maintain multiple passwords for various platforms in both our personal and professional lives.

That’s why many of us resort to having a standard password we use for everything, to help ease the process of logging in to anything from our online banking profile to Facebook. Not only is it the most common source of vulnerability particularly for small businesses, but that is what attackers are hoping for. That makes us targets.

It’s a pain treatment. This we all know. But developing strong, reliable passwords falls into the “no pain, no gain” category when it comes to small business cyber security.

A 2016 study by Verizon found that 63 percent of confirmed data breaches were related in some way to a weak, default or stolen password.

Having a company policy in place that establishes guidelines for passwords, and requires them to be updated regularly is a good place to start.

Beyond that, BizTech suggests putting a two-factor authentication process in place.

The problem: Malware, Ransomware, the Cloud (Oh, My!)

The solution: Update, patch, backup, repeat. Malware is capable of reaching anyone these days, Ransomware is running rampant and the cloud is a bittersweet business adaptation that can make and break your business. So what do you do to keep your small business safe?

Update, patch, backup, repeat.

Making sure you have the latest updates installed and patches in place is step one, followed by making sure everything is safely backed up. For some, that is where the cloud comes into play, and rightly so.

Cloud computing has been the way of the future since yesterday and has had a profound impact on business practices worldwide. Yet it needs to be approached and handled with care, just as anything else. Taking some time upfront to choose the right cloud-based technology could help save your business in the long run.