We see the same scene in horror movies. The main character runs into the house, slams the door, locks the deadbolt, and heaves a sigh of relief — but somehow the killer still sneaks up and attacks them from behind!
If you own a small business you might find yourself in a similar situation. Sometimes small business owners spend large amounts of time and resources physically protecting their operations. Only, they end up letting the most dangerous threats sneak through the figurative back door.
Today we’re going to talk about the 8 biggest threats to small businesses right now, in no particular order. While a few of them are new, some older risks are still very much in play.
Not only is this the number one threat to cybersecurity, it’s also increasing in frequency. 48% of small businesses reported phishing attempts in 2017 — up from 42% one year prior. All indications point to this trend rising as it requires the least amount of resources and know-how.
Microsoft Document Scams
There’s nothing dangerous about opening a Word document, right? Think again! Recently, scammers have been getting creative with coding that allows them to gain access to your computer through these kinds of attachments. Microsoft has been working overtime to create new patches, but many companies delay updating their software. This makes it a prime vulnerability for criminals.
Currently, over 1,100 different variations of ransomware are tracked around the world. The FBI stated that there has been a sharp uptick in these attacks recently. They advise that the practice will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. In this year alone, not just businesses, but entire cities have paid ransoms to get their data back.
As more cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin) have exploded on the scene, their demand and value have gone up as well. Bitcoin is “created” in a process known as mining. This is a resource-intensive practice that requires computing power that thieves often lack. The solution? Hijack other computer systems to do the computing for them. This takes a toll on bandwidth and slows down networks.
Internet of Things (IoT) Attacks
Technology is rapidly advancing beyond computers. Many devices have become a computing device. With IoT technology, you can connect your security system, HVAC system, and even the microwave in your break room to your servers. While this allows everything to be connected and consolidated in one place, it also creates vulnerabilities. Most of these devices have very weak security protocols in place. Who would want access to the toaster in the office next door? As they are often plugged into the main network, this connection creates a backdoor that can — and has repeatedly been — exploited.
Many people feel safe doing business on their mobile devices. Unfortunately, these accessories are major security weaknesses. While most of us have been lectured about using unsecured Wi-Fi ad nauseam, the most recent threat to small businesses is our reliance on the Cloud through mobile computing. In the past few years, companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft have made cloud backups a standard offering. Since so much information is stored in one location, it becomes a huge target for criminals to attack and gain access to your information. While that may not be a problem if you’re backing up family photos or text messages from your sister, any important document or business data may have also found its way onto these mega servers without you even realizing it.
The above are just a sample of the ever-evolving external cyber threats to small businesses. It might seem best to hire someone fresh from a reputable university, but that may not be enough. A recent study showed that 40% of companies surveyed said that having employees with an applicable degree has not shown to be good enough to keep their systems safe. That same survey showed that less than 25% of applicants for cybersecurity positions were deemed qualified. If that’s how things look in your company, you may feel safe today, but might be in danger for what’s coming over the horizon. It is estimated that training someone to do the job well takes over six months!
An approximate 69% of companies have an understaffed cyber threat team. A large portion of that percentage is with no one in this role. What does this mean for a small business? Either people with no experience fill this position, or there is nothing in place to protect valuable data from hackers.
The killer hiding in the back seat, sneaking in through the back door, or — worse — already in the house, are all clichés. Do you know what else is cliché? Letting your small business fall victim to cyber-attacks. While you can’t avoid all attacks, protect yourself by being prepared. Updated security software and regular data back-ups are invaluable in this process. Awareness of the latest threats is also key. Just like in the movies, when a killer is loose, no one should feel safe.