Although many business owners don’t realize it, small businesses are just as much at risk from cybersecurity threats as large companies. It might seem shocking, but 43% of all cyberattacks target small businesses. When you think about that, coupled with the fact that more than two in five small businesses lack any cybersecurity defense plan, the outlook is grim for small business owners in the ongoing battle against cybercriminals.
As one of those small business owners, you may feel effectively powerless against the hackers. After all, it’s tough to protect against something you don’t understand. To help keep you informed and arm you with the tools you need to stay protected, we’ve assembled our list of the top cybersecurity threats to small businesses and some helpful tips to ensure that you don’t fall victim to cybercriminals.
#1 — Ransomware
Ransomware is a huge threat to companies large and small, but businesses with less than 1,000 employees are most at risk, with 82% of ransomware attacks affecting such companies.
Ransomware is a type of malware (malicious software) that uses encryption to hold a victim’s information or systems at ransom. For businesses, ransomware attacks can be unimaginably destructive. All data can be locked and destroyed forever if you don’t pay the ransom. This means that customer data, balance sheets, employee documentation, and other business-related information could be lost forever.
To protect against ransomware, we suggest three top tips:
- Store a backup of essential information offline.
- Use an anti-malware application with anti-ransomware capabilities.
- Regularly update devices and software.
#2 — Business Email Compromise Scams
Although they don’t grab the headlines as much as ransomware-related cybersecurity news, in 2021, business email compromise (BEC) scams resulted in losses of nearly $2.4 billion!
A BEC scam occurs when a cybercriminal gains access to a legitimate business email account and uses it to dupe businesses and individuals into transferring money. Such scams are often very elaborate and convincing, involving careful research and close monitoring of the potential victim. Once enough information is gathered, the fraudsters will use social engineering tactics to get the victim to initiate a wire transfer.
To combat BEC scams, ensure multi-factor authentication is enabled on all email accounts. This will make it exponentially more difficult for a cybercriminal to hack into one of them and impersonate an employee or access any data sent over email.
#3 — Insider Threats and Data Leaks
By having a thorough and considerate recruitment process in place, all businesses would like to think that they only hire the very best people. Unfortunately, however, this can’t always be the case.
An insider threat is a potential for any employee (or anyone else who works directly with a company) to use their authorized access to harm a business. Most commonly, this will be through the leaking of sensitive company or customer data, as was seen in the recent Cash App data leak.
Such incidents can result in massive financial loss, legal proceedings, loss of reputation, and operational downtime. For a small to medium-sized business, one incident like this would most likely cause unrecoverable damage.
Insider threats are inherently difficult to protect against. However, to help defend against them, make sure you have robust data security measures in place. At a minimum, enforce strong password requirements and ensure that employees only have access to the data they need to perform their jobs.
#4 — Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are cybersecurity attacks used to steal data, typically through email and text messages. Generally, cybercriminals are looking to get their hands on victims’ login credentials and banking information.
Cybercriminals will send malicious messages to potential victims when conducting phishing scam campaigns. The messages will often include actual company logos, making them appear genuine. Every message will include a phishing link, which the cybercriminals want the victims to click on.
Although the messages and links often appear to be legitimate— they might take you to a webpage that looks just like Gmail, Outlook, Amazon, or the Bank of America. However, the site you arrive on will be a fake version of the actual website and completely controlled by cybercriminals.
The exact site the link takes you to will depend on the specific phishing scam, but one thing is for sure: any information entered onto the site, including email addresses, passwords, and credit card information, is instantly compromised.
Here are some common signs of a phishing scam:
- Unusual grammar and spelling errors.
- A strange, non-official-looking email address.
- The message conveys a great sense of urgency.
- The sender is asking you to fulfill an odd request.
#5 — Malware
Malware is software that has been specifically designed to cause harm to a computer or grant a hacker unauthorized access. There are many different types of malware, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, and more.
The threat of malware is ever-present, and cybercriminals are continuously producing new variants. Fortunately, however, there are many superb anti-malware applications available, many of which offer licenses for small businesses — allowing you to protect all your company’s computers and devices without worrying about managing lots of different software licenses.
If an anti-malware application does not currently protect your company’s devices, you are asking for trouble. If you’re worried about wanting to pick the best one, don’t worry, they’re all great, and any protection is vastly better than none.
Do You Need to Report a Cybercrime Incident?
If you are the victim of a cyberattack, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. If you have been scammed, you can report it to the FTC. by clicking here, too.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.