The Top Cybersecurity Threats Small Businesses Should Monitor

In the end, technology is the cornerstone of any small business.


There's an assumption that cyber attacks — those disruptive events that take down businesses and cost enormous amounts of money — only impact the largest of organizations. That, unfortunately, is not correct.

According to one recent study, a massive 43% of all cyber attacks actually target small businesses in particular. This is due in large part to how lax their security tends to be. It's simply easier to go after a small organization as opposed to a bigger one — and the consequences can be dire. Once you realize that approximately 60% of all small businesses that are the victim of a data breach permanently close their doors within just six months, it's easy to see why this is a situation that must be taken seriously.

Compounding the issue is the fact that new cyber threats are appearing all the time. It's no longer simple malware that we have to worry about. Ransomware has the potential to infect virtually every computer and server on a network, locking precious data away permanently. Likewise, a new report has revealed a number of new threats that debuted during the COVID-19 pandemic — many of which small business owners will likely be entirely unaware of.

The Cyber Landscape as it Exists Today

One of the more recent cyber threats to emerge is dubbed "spoofing." This is when a hacker uses a fake IP address to essentially masquerade as an authorized device, all in an effort to gain access to a company's internal systems. That supposedly legitimate device is then used to trick an employee into clicking on a malicious link, downloading a malware payload to the system. At that point, the attacker would have total access to all unencrypted data, meaning there is no limit to what they would be able to accomplish.

According to a study of more than 20,000 randomly selected small businesses in the United States, more than a third of them had suffered from spoofing at some point in the recent past.

If you had to make a list of threats that have increased exponentially during the pandemic, ransomware would undoubtedly be right at the top. This is a type of attack that uses encryption to essentially block off access to all files on an infected system. Once again, an employee clicks on a link they shouldn't or downloads a rogue file and all information is immediately compromised. Hackers then make a demand for a certain amount of money under the guise that they'll give all encrypted data back, but there's no guarantee that this will actually happen.

The common theme here is that most of these techniques employ social engineering, something that has become unfortunately more successful with the rise of remote work. When all employees are using work-issued computers that are overseen at least to some degree by an IT department (or at least a single IT employee), you can be reasonably confident that they're locked down. You know what type of antivirus software is installed on them and you know what provisions are in place to help protect critical data.

But when employees are working from home, where they may be doing some tasks on their own computer in addition to their work computer, these same assurances are not in place. As a result, a small problem suddenly becomes a much bigger one — and the consequences become much more severe.

It's also important to know what your most critical data is and where it is being stored at any given time. Is it on a server somewhere that people are accessing remotely, or is it literally being stored on a personal device? These are questions that must be answered to create the best cyber security strategy moving forward.

This is why, when it comes to cyber security, employee training and education are always key. If you want people to know how to avoid something like a ransomware attack, then they need to know what one looks like. They need to be trained on what to do if they get a suspicious email from a sender, whether they know the person on the other end or not. They need to understand that things like spoofing are very real and very common. This is all so employees can constantly keep their guard up and avoid situations like those outlined above.

In the end, technology is the cornerstone of any small business. It's something that has become particularly important over the last two years as the volume of people who are telecommuting has gone through the roof. It's something a lot of organizations depend on, but it isn't without potential downsides.

By understanding the ever-changing threat landscape, educating users and being vigilant about cyber security, it is possible to stay safe online in the modern era. It simply requires a proactive approach.

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