How small businesses can defend against common cybersecurity attacks

10 Aug, 2022 6 min read
Grace Cao
Grace Cao
Technical Product Marketing Manager
Managing a small business can often feel like having 100 tabs open at once. Between handling client relations, organising taxes, and keeping up with day-to-day operations, cybersecurity (particularly data security) tends to fall along the wayside. Not because business owners don’t care, but because there is simply too much to care about.

For small businesses, priorities often lie with directing their resources toward creating sustainable revenue streams. Cybersecurity software and training only add cost to the heavy burden of balancing the books. But just as with health insurance, not investing in cybersecurity leaves small businesses vulnerable to being wiped out by cyberattacks.

The numbers paint a picture of major neglect over an ever-looming threat. According to CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Confidence Index, only 5% of small business owners consider cybersecurity to be the biggest risk to their business. More alarmingly, 54% of them had no contingency plan to fall back on should they fall under an attack.

But the good news is that it doesn’t take too much for small businesses to lift themselves out of the reach of most hackers. Here are 5 cybersecurity strategies for small businesses to keep you safe:

1. Make sure you have a good understanding of common hacker tactics

To get you started, here’s a brief rundown. Phishing and malware are by far the most common threats that small businesses encounter. 90% of breaches to small businesses are caused by Phishing attempts.

Both attacks usually come in the form of downloadable files or links enclosed within fictitious emails masquerading as legitimate ones. When clicked, hackers will be able to obtain personal information such as your location, and contact details, which can, in turn, be used to gain access to company systems or credit cards.

Remember, your defences are truly only as good as your weakest link. It only takes one employee to fall prey to a phishing attempt to put a whole organisation in jeopardy. A hacked employee account can also be used to solicit sensitive information from other employees, who may not think twice about handing over personal information to a familiar contact.

Malware can also install code into personal devices to grant hackers access to systems or remote control over devices — giving them free rein over a company’s operations. This usually results in costly damages, either in the form of lost company data or crippled devices that have to be restored.

While ransomware is less common for small businesses, it still happens. It works just like an actual ransom, except that your data is the hostage. This is done by encrypting company files that are essential for business operations before demanding financial compensation for the release of said encrypted files.

The irony is, that 58% of small businesses allocate less than $10,000 to their IT budget. (Read to learn more about how much money is spent on cybersecurity and what your company can do to plan for your IT budget.) In comparison, the average demand for ransom releases targeting small businesses is $116,000.

The threat of ransomware is growing as more businesses shift online and use a network of devices to store and circulate company data. It’s no coincidence that the number of ransomware attacks has increased by more than 400% since the start of COVID-19.

2. Always conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment

They say that prevention is better than cure and this adage is as true in cybersecurity as it is in healthcare. Yearly increases in cyberattacks prove that existing security solutions are far from adequate at stamping them out. Data breaches are the main reason why a majority of small companies go under within several months of opening.  Did you know 60% of small companies close within 6 months of being hacked?

For companies that do make it out alive, the costs of repair and data retrieval, plummeting customer trust, and business hours lost can leave an indelible impact that permanently alters the business trajectory even several years down the road. Just analysing and sealing off weak spots in your cybersecurity defences will buy you significantly more time than reactionary responses carried out only after hackers strike.

Many small business owners mistakenly believe that they are too small or insignificant to catch the attention of cybercriminals when the opposite is true. Cybercriminals know that small businesses tend to have rudimentary defences, which is precisely why they seek them out like predators.

Thorough risk assessments involve identifying entry points for cybercriminals, such as the number of plugins on your website, the devices tapping into proprietary secrets, and the networks you are connected to when carrying out work.

3. Get simple patches through upgrades and updates

One of the best and most time-efficient ways to improve your business’s cyber defences is to constantly schedule time for updates on the software tools and devices that you use. This is because programmers and developers weave new defences into each patch to protect against new threats constantly springing up. So don’t put off updating your device the next time you’re prompted to do so.

4. Keep prying eyes away from internal correspondence by encrypting your emails

Good cyber hygiene is the most cost-effective form of defence. With emails being essential for communication, encrypting information sent over email should not be overlooked. But don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds.

We may scoff at blatantly fraudulent spam emails, but the reality is that it’s surprisingly easy to fall victim to phishing attacks. Cybercriminals have grown increasingly sophisticated over the pandemic years and learned how to impersonate verification SMSes and personalise emails to extract the information they want.

Email encryption is widely available, providing reassurance that business messages remain private, while some email security products, like SecureAge's SecureEmail, offer the additional benefits of digital signatures so that the authenticity of emails can also be shown.

5. Protect your business data with airtight defence mechanisms using file encryption software

The SecureAge Security Suite, a file encryption and email security software, protects small business Data 100% of the time. That’s right, every file, every place and every time. If you’re not familiar, competitor solutions tend to only protect data (well some data) when it’s at-rest. What they don’t tell you is that they offer little to no protection for data that is in-use, or in-transit - and that’s when security is needed the most!

Our 19-year history of zero plain Data breaches speaks for itself. Choose the cyber security suite that keeps your Data secure no matter what it is doing, and just as importantly, doesn’t force your employees to overhaul the way they work. The SecureAge Security suite is a non-intrusive solution that operates silently in the background just like your Wi-Fi does.

The bottom line

If hackers are opportunists, then small businesses that have given little consideration to cybersecurity are low-hanging fruits that are ripe for picking.

More than half of cyberattacks are committed against small-to-mid-sized enterprises.

In a world where it just takes one cyberattack for businesses to go under, protection against a majority of unscrupulous actors is not enough. Good cybersecurity allows you and your team to focus your time and energy on what you do best — keeping business running — with peace of mind knowing that your Data is in good hands.

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