As businesses become increasingly digital, adapting to consumer demand, and swiftly transitioning towards the online world, ongoing threats of cybercrime and cyberattacks are becoming a significant challenge for small businesses that are ill-prepared.
There are Digital Tools to Help Defend Against Cyberattack
Today, with the onset of digital tools that can help businesses remain relevant in the highly competitive marketplace, new technologies exist in different spheres of the business ecosystem to help find solutions to the growing problems business owners are constantly facing.
New technologies are helping business owners and employees cope with high volumes of work or better manage customer relations. They also act as a guard between the business and bad actors looming on the internet.
Part of the transition into the digital ecosystem has also come with a range of costly challenges.
In recent years, the rise of cyber-attacks and bad actors has meant that businesses are seeing a growing threat that could potentially jeopardize their operations and cost them a pretty penny to resolve.
In today’s world, cybersecurity and online data protection should be considered one of the leading strategic solutions to improve business performance.
The latest statistics reveal that as of 2022, the average cost per data breach amounted to more than $4.35 million, a steady increase from the recorded average of $4.24 million.
While the cost of a data breach may vary from industry to industry, healthcare and medicine were seen as having the highest recorded average cost.
There is a Mind-Boggling Amount of Data Breaches and Cyberattacks
The staggering price tag of data breaches meant that small and big businesses have swiftly acted to counter any potential attacks and breaches by implementing an array of tools that can mitigate the potential threat of any bad actors.
A report published in 2021 shows that small businesses have become prime targets for hackers and cybercriminals. Around 42% of businesses were affected by cyberattacks last year, according to the report. On top of this, it was found that 69% of small business professionals said they are concerned about any potential future attacks.
Even with 72% of small business owners and managers now preparing their digital operations for a potential attack, many professionals still regard their businesses as too small or out of sight of cyber criminals to be considered targets.
The concern is that only 26% of small business professionals currently see or regard cyber security as a “top priority.” Even with the current state of cyber security, small businesses will only see a growing number of threats in the coming years as widespread technological adoption and internet usage occur.
The basket of challenges, other than cyber attacks, is that small businesses and startups are generally not in a financial position to implement high-end cyber security systems.
Setting up a high-end or medium-tier cybersecurity system could cost professionals between $1,300 and $3,000 per full-time employee.
While percentage-wise, it means that the business is dedicating between 0.2% to 0.9% of its revenue to cybersecurity, for a small business owner like yourself, these figures could mean having to make financial cutbacks or adjustments to the budget to improve online digital security systems.
Types of cyberattack
With the exponential growth of online commerce and digital media paired with the onset of remote work and the virtual working office, the types of cyberattacks businesses face annually are becoming more severe and costing them more each year.
Despite the advancement in technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), and basic software capabilities, it’s been found that human error remains the most significant cause of cyberattacks due to insufficient knowledge and training on cyber security and cybercrime.
While human error remains the biggest pitfall for small businesses when it comes to their cybersecurity, other types of attacks and threats include:
This refers to malicious software that infiltrates a computer or operating system with a virus, such as worms, spyware, ransomware, and adware. Malware attacks are among the most common types of cyber attacks.
Another widespread threat includes the use of malicious links and emails, if once opened, a virus is then released onto the computer or operating system, whereby an attacker gains access to confidential information and data.
Hackers can infiltrate a business’s online platforms and other important information by cracking the password for a specific portal or account. Any person must always use a strong and complex password, especially if multiple accounts are synced or connected to the same server.
Common among businesses and companies and involves attackers flooding a company’s servers and networks to exhaust the bandwidth. Once the system becomes overwhelmed or exhausted, it tends to slow down or shut down completely, leaving the server and networks compromised.
These are only a few of the most common and widely known cyberattacks that occur regularly. For small businesses that use online platforms such as social media or any eCommerce site, an online attack can occur at any given moment. It usually takes a few days before a person even realizes a system has become compromised.
What small businesses can do to protect themselves against cyber attacks
With a growing list of potential cyber threats, as a small business owner or startup entrepreneur, having to differentiate between obscure and bad actors will become increasingly challenging as the types of cyberattacks only become more complex and advanced.
Being prepared as best as possible means that you protect your business, employees, and customers. Take a look at some tips below to help protect your business against impending cybercrime.
Educate and inform employees
Whether you operate a small business with one, two, or a couple of dozen employees, the best place to start is with your frontline personnel to ensure they are educated and informed about the risks of cyberattacks. Even if you are a one-person/woman show, take the time to follow up about a potential gap in your cyber security system and how you can fix it.
Employees may be the most significant risk for your business’s cybersecurity, so the best way to go about this is to ensure that when an employee logs into social media accounts or visits websites for personal reasons, it is done on their own devices.
You can also create a password policy that mandates employees to secure their work devices with passwords and that it is updated regularly. The first line of defense is to ensure employees can spot suspicious online activity and have a protocol to resolve the issue.
Limit employee data access
As part of educating employees about the dangers of cyber attacks, you can also limit the number of access employees has to business-related data and information.
While still a small business, giving one or two employees unlimited access to all business information and customer data is never a good idea. However, limiting what employees can see, enter, and download makes it easier for you, a business owner, to control and monitor what types of data sets are being accessed, by whom, and for what purposes.
Update software and cybersecurity systems
During the early stages of your business, it’s essential to take a bit of time and consider whether your personal computer, which is often used for business-related activities, has some form of anti-virus or, at a minimum, anti-spyware software installed.
This is the most basic level of security for any type of computer, but as your business begins to grow and more devices get added, it’s essential to update systems as you progress. From smartphones, tablets, computers, and laptops to online websites and social media accounts, ensure a strong wall of protection between your business and any bad actors that can hack your data.
Make use of cloud storage
Online cloud storage has, in recent years, become a suitable replacement for servers and hardware networks that were used to store data and information. And while many businesses still use these hardware tools, advanced technology has, in due time, decreased its need and safety, replacing it with virtual cloud storage capabilities.
With cloud storage, you can directly upload and download any information, share across multiple channels, improve virtual and remote working capabilities, and operate a more mobile-friendly work environment for remote employees.
Cloud storage also happens to be a lot more stable and offers around-the-clock cybersecurity protection. What’s more, you can monitor cloud activity to see if you can spot any suspicious activities or update security protocols.
Regularly conduct cybersecurity assessments
Another intelligent and cost-effective way to improve cybersecurity systems is to conduct cybersecurity assessments on your devices and operating systems routinely. Usually, this is relatively easy, especially if you’re using a basic computer security program or if you have the know-how skills.
Running the assessments not only helps monitor your devices’ performance, but it can also help you pick up any type of possible threats and clear a device from viruses, worms, and trojans.
Typically computer security programs come with a built-in assessment tool that you can launch by yourself or do a bit of research online about free and trusted tools you can use.
Set up customer data protection
Any type of small business that operates online through social media or a website will need to implement some form of customer data protection to help secure your client’s personal information.
For starters, you can restrict which employees have access to customer information and to what extent they can use customer data.
Secondly, use a customer relationship management system that is trusted by the industry and offers reliable protection against hackers from inside and outside the business.
Finally, limit the amount of data and information stored on devices or network servers to minimize accessibility.
Securing customer data means that you protect not only your customers, but in case of a potential hack or cyberattack, customers can be assured your business has the needed protocols in place that will counter any bad actors.
Set up a response plan
A final recommendation would be to set up a response plan in case of an attack or data breach. Before setting up a response plan, it’s advised to consult with a professional or do some research on the protocols you should follow and have in place in case cybercriminals gain access to your business data. Then set up an appointment with your leadership and employees to talk about your response plans.
A response plan can also help employees in the event of a possible attack. It helps you, as a business owner, know that you are well-prepared and have taken the necessary steps to implement the proper protocols.
To end off
As a business owner, it’s best to be prepared rather than run the risk of leaving your business, employees, and customers vulnerable in the face of cybercrime. Having a heavy hand in protecting data and information ensures that all channels of your business can be protected and that when an attack occurs, you have the proper protocols to mitigate any costly threats.
Never think your business is too small to be a victim of a cyberattack. Cybercrime has become a growing threat for any size business. As bad actors become more innovative and advanced, it will only cost business owners more money and resources to resolve cybercrime.
Cybersecurity is a permanent and long-term investment that should be considered throughout all aspects of the business. Using suitable systems and tools will save you a lot of time and money, keep your information secure, and counter any bad actors looming and watching.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by SHVETS production; Pexels; Thank you!
Carma Khatib is a passionate innovator and product manager with significant experience driving digital products from conception to launch. My mission is to find and create solutions to real-world problems that ultimately impact a company's triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit.