Protecting Small Business from Increasing Cyber Attacks

No business, whether big or small, is safe in this era of cyber warfare. Target, TJ Maxx, and Home Depot are prime examples of how businesses loose million because of data breaches. Big-name businesses aside, even small businesses are being threatened with the same unfortunate fate. A report by IDC, a data firm, revealed that 71% of data breaches targeted small businesses.

More: Thousands of CCTV Devices Found DDoSing Small-Business Websites

Small businesses are being targeted based on their:

  • Level of online presence
  • Transaction carried out via credit cards
  • Exchange of information with clients and vendors through e-mail
  • E-portal for clients or vendors
  • Policy of bringing your device (BYOD)

By exploring these factors at a deeper level, we can identify major threats, which are:

Exploiting Human Error

Hackers often target small business since they lack the required resources or infrastructure needed to counter these threats effectively, making them easy prey. Moreover, the job of hackers is made easier thanks to misplaced or lost gadgets, clicking on suspicious links implanted with malware, replying to a phishing email with sensitive information and transfer of money via unsecured resources.

Spear Phishing Attacks

Image Source: Flickr

Despite increased knowledge about not clicking malicious or suspicious looking links in an email, company employees are often tricked into clicking. This, in turn, provides a secure gateway for hackers to exploit susceptible company networks.

Vulnerable Security Framework

Once a hacker gets access to a company’s network, the firewalls and security patches can do very little about it. Small businesses often don’t allocate enough resources or do not hire the services of third-party security providers to deploy strong firewalls or updated security patches, resulting in loss of valuable information by the hackers, once they get hold of it.

Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

DDoS attacks are becoming more common as the resources available to carry out these attacks are increasingly becoming more common and less expensive including increasing trend of DDoS for hire services. Small businesses often tend to have loose ends when it comes to their website’s architecture, making it vulnerable to DDoS attacks.

How Have These Threats Shifted in the Last Year or Two?

With the advent of IoT, most small businesses are trying to establish their foothold in this new sector. Resultantly, creating opportunities for small businesses. Sadly, most of the time these devices which include video conferencing systems, IP monitored security systems, connected climate control systems, VoIP phones and even smart bulbs are not protected enough, making them vulnerable to hacking.

Some Strategies to Counter These Threats

Establishing A Security-Centric Culture

Small businesses tend to ignore the fact that their sensitive information accompanies their employees inside and outside of their office premises, and that it needs to be protected at all times. Some mandatory rules that small businesses should follow are:

  • Making their employees use complex passwords
  • Passwords that expire and need to be renewed
  • Block access to certain websites that pose risks to the security of their data.

Implementing Strong Network and Workstation Controls

  • Placing a properly configured firewall through a dedicated resource
  • Applying current and most recent patches on everything, including the gadgets owned by their employees
  • Carrying out risk assessment with the help of a third party including that of vendor’s
  • Implementing SaaS-based security services, which are often less expensive to deploy due to their non-hardware nature
  • Using cloud-based applications and securing those cloud storages
  • Providing access to sensitive information to the right people only
  • Implementing solutions like VPN for secure remote access for employees.
  • Having a disaster recovery site in place to act as a temporary site in case of a DDoS attack on primary one.
  • Having a static page to keep customers informed if the order page gets offline.

Employee Training

Small businesses should invest in educating their staff, which include:

  • Why certain sites should be off-limits
  • How to spot malicious phishing emails
  • Why clicking on these links can pose a serious threat
  • How major data breaches happen by human error

Vendor Monitoring

Most small businesses are not wary of the fact that the amount of information their vendors have access to can pose a serious security risk:

  • Companies need to make sure that the data their vendors have access to is secure
  • How much data their vendors have obtained?
  • Whether any third party is involved in securing the data or not?
  • What is the level of scrutiny of vendor’s employees?
  • The frequency of vendor risk assessment?

Periodic Assessment of Vulnerabilities

Image Source: Flickr

Regular testing should be carried out to identify impending security risks to the network. In this scenario, third parties can be hired to do the stress testing to determine any loopholes in the system clearly.

These steps if implemented can protect small businesses by keeping them in “prepared mode” and help to allocate necessary resources.

DDoS attacks are increasing, calculate the cost and probability of a DDoS attack on your business with this DDoS Downtime Cost Calculator.

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