Even small businesses are at risk for cyber attacks – here’s what your business should ensure your cybersecurity is up to par with big business efforts

With more and more ransomware, e-fencing, and phishing attacks making the news each day, cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important — yet many small business owners aren’t taking the threat seriously. There’s a widespread misconception that cybercriminals only hit large organizations, but in 2015 alone, 43 percent of cyberattacks targeted small businesses.

Despite the looming danger, only 14 percent of small businesses rate their ability to mitigate cyber risks as highly effective. That means far too many business owners are leaving themselves insanely vulnerable to security threats. Let’s take a closer look at why cybercriminals set their sights on small businesses, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Why Small Businesses?

Industry experts maintain that it’s not a matter of “if” a data breach will happen, but “when.” Modern businesses rely heavily on technology, and as such, their exposure to cyber-attacks has only increased. No matter what service they offer, the product they sell, or the size of the company, all businesses are at risk. Even the healthcare industry isn’t safe — from 2015 to 2016, cyberattacks on healthcare companies grew by 320 percent!

There are a number of reasons why small businesses are a major target for cyberattacks. First and foremost is that they often lack the resources to set up protective barriers. The information cybercriminals want, such as credit card credentials, social security numbers, and intellectual property is often less defended on a small business system.

Second, the larger companies — who do have the financial resources to upgrade their security — have become much harder to attack. Finally, small businesses’ partnerships with larger corporations provide back-channel entry to a hacker’s true targets.

Data breaches are not only damaging for those whose information is stolen, it can be a death sentence for the business itself. For a small business, the average cost of a breach is about $38,000. That’s a lot of money to shell out when you don’t have much capital, to begin with. Furthermore, with many small businesses failing to back up their data, losing it can mean losing your business altogether.

Perhaps the largest obstacle small business owners face when it comes to cybersecurity is the high price of investing in the tools needed to protect against attacks. However, it’s an investment that needs to make, as preventive tools are far more cost-effective than dealing with the tremendous damage and resulting financial liability of a breach. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Tips to Strengthen Security

Strengthening cybersecurity can be surprisingly easy; all it takes is a little knowledge on the subject. The following are just a few basic tips to do so — you can find more on the Small Business Administration website:

  • Improve Password Protection: Use strong passwords, and set up the system to prompt passwords updates regularly. Implement policies to regulate password sharing.
  • Limit Access: Layered security can help keep sensitive data safe even if your system suffers a breach. Only allow employees access to the information they need for their specific job. Add multiple levels of protection, such as additional passwords, encryption, and so on.
  • Train Employees: Even with the best policies and tools in place, employees can inadvertently cause breaches if they’re not properly trained. Ensure that employees understand both how to use company resources appropriately and the penalties for failing to follow security protocols.
  • Hack Yourself: If you’re not sure what vulnerabilities are present in your system, hire a consulting firm or IT specialist to audit your system for weaknesses. Once you know where you need extra defense, you can make the needed changes and better protect your business, network, and clientele.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect your customers’ data is to not store unnecessary information in the first place. For example, if you need a customer’s Social Security number or driver’s license number in order to establish an account, there’s no reason to retain said data after the account is opened and in good standing. If you don’t possess the information that cybercriminals want, there’s a good chance you can prevent a breach from ever occurring.

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