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  1. The Significance of Cyber Security in SMBs

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    Without a doubt, utilizing the internet and social media platforms allows businesses of any size and location to reach a larger market and provide more opportunities for growth and profit. While this reach is undeniably beneficial to any growing business, it also means that cyber security needs to be made a core aspect of a business strategy.

    To put into perspective the importance of cyber security, recently gathered the following statistics:

    • There is an increase of 10% in the cost of cybercrime than the past year
    • 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error
    • There are 30,000 websites hacked daily
    • In 2023, the global annual cost of cybercrime is predicted to top $8 trillion
    • 47% of adults have had their personal information exposed by cybercriminals
    • The average total cost of data breaches in 2022 was $4.35 million
    • 43% of all cyber-attacks are aimed at small businesses
    • 91% of attacks launch with a phishing email
    • A business falls victim to a ransomware attack every 14 seconds

    The Truth About SMBs and Cyber Attacks

    As a small business, it is easy to fall into a false facade that since you are small and growing, you do not have anything worth hacking, but regardless of size, cyber attacks do not discriminate and small businesses appeal to hackers for their:

    Data – no matter how established you are, all businesses have data that hackers can profit off including medical records, credit card information, SS numbers, bank credentials, or other personal details.

    Third-Party Vulnerabilities – SMBs are often connected to larger businesses or third-party suppliers and at the bare minimum, they are digitally connected so that they can complete transactions, manage supply chains and share necessary information. Since more prominent businesses are harder to penetrate, hackers will target small businesses to get into a larger business system.

    Lack of Resources – this can range from not having the skills or staff to dedicate to proper IT security or having inadequate employee training or monitoring which can lead to cyber-attacks by human error.

    Cyber attacks can vary but there are a few common types that typically hit small businesses. Recognizing these threats, having a plan on how to resolve them, and having proper employee training can help save the future of your business. The most common types of cyber security to be aware of are:

    1. Phishing Attacks – typically masquerading as a trusted email or text message, phishing attacks aim to steal personal information like credit card information, bank credentials, passwords, and social security numbers by having the reader simply click an email attachment or URL that contains a virus.
    2. Malware (malicious software) – refers to any software that is developed with the intention to steal information or resources for monetary gain or for blatant sabotage. These can include viruses, worms, trojan viruses, and ransomware.
    3. Viruses – there are a variety of viruses that are all programmed to harm your software and hardware. These viruses have the ability to damage programs, delete files, and even slow down performance. They can be sent through file sharing, opening infected emails, visiting a malicious site, or downloading harmful applications.
    4. Ransomware – locking a business’ computers and encrypting data to hold them hostage, ransomware is a common cyber-attack that holds a business’s important information for ransom to be paid to a hacker in return for a decryption key. Typically with ransomware, you have 24-48 hours before files are lost or made public and it is most often spread through email spam or network attacks.
    5. Passwords – password theft is an ongoing problem and small businesses face threats when employees use weak or easily guessed passwords. Weak passwords include commonly used passwords or passwords that contain any personal information.

    Implementing Cyber Security

    As a small business, it might not be possible to dedicate the time and staff needed for cyber security but that does not mean you have to remain vulnerable. There are several practices that businesses can implement in their overall cyber security plan that help reduce the number of attacks or be able to quickly identify and recover from them. It is also important to remember when creating a cyber security plan to:

    • Be proactive to prevent damage before cyber attacks get out of hand
    • Increase awareness of the significance of cybersecurity
    • Create a cybersecurity plan against a variety of attacks/human errors, be thorough, and have a game plan from discovery to solution
    • Protect your payment gateways
    Lock icon on shield icon on cloud icon, concept of cloud computing

    Start With Employees

    Since a large part of cyber security issues come from human error, establishing basic security practices and policies for employees is vital in a strong cyber security strategy. These practices can include:

    • Training employees to spot suspicious emails, email addresses, URLs, and attachments
    • Establishing internet use guidelines
    • Having a clear procedure for handling, protecting, and communicating sensitive data and information
    • Maintain physical security by locking server rooms and having strong, unique passwords for individual hardware
    • Have better password practices and require passwords to be changed frequently, using more complex passwords and, if possible, consider implementing multi-factor authentication

    Do Not Skip Your Updates

    A key role in cyber security is keeping your hardware and software up to date by having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system. Anytime you have a system update, be sure to do it when it’s available because having these up-to-date offers you better defense against a range of cyber attacks. In addition, businesses can use antivirus software as added protection from any malware attack.

    Firewall Security

    A firewall is a network security device that helps prevent outsiders from accessing data on private networks. While antivirus helps protect your files against viruses, firewalls block intruders from accessing your computer, to begin with. If you have any employees who work remotely, ensure their home systems are protected just like your office systems are. Firewalls also have the capability to block any unapproved websites, limit bandwidth for certain programs and they can provide VPN services.

    Cloud Back Ups

    Essentially all businesses use the cloud and beyond it being amazing for storage and cohesive workplaces, cloud backups can make sure a copy of your critical data stays safe in case of any cyber attack incidents. Data and files with confidential information are prime targets in cyber attacks and businesses without backups can face detrimental consequences.

    Secure Wi-Fi Networks

    Wireless networks tend to be less secure compared to wired networks so making sure your workplace’s network is secure, encrypted, and hidden is key for helping prevent cyber attacks. Risks to non-secure wireless networks can include piggybacking, wardriving, wireless sniffing, and unauthorized computer access. Be sure to not broadcast your network name and password-protect your router.