The internet is a digital highway that facilitates nearly all aspects of modern life. Just as ancient traders had to deal with bandits, every small business with an online presence is vulnerable. Cybersecurity challenges range from minor nuisances to large scale crippling attacks by bad actors.
Although the headlines focus on big corporations, small businesses are also soft targets for hackers. You might not know when the next attack will occur but can take precautions to slow or completely thwart attempts.
Why Small Businesses Are Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks
You might not prioritize cybersecurity because you have several other decisions to make as a small business owner. Failure to boost your defenses leaves potential entry points for hackers. Most small businesses wrongly assume they don’t have any assets that could interest bad actors.
They underestimate their level of risk by thinking that only large corporations are susceptible to cyberattacks. On the contrary, your business is a prime target for hackers. That's because it has valuable digital assets without the sophisticated security of a large enterprise.
However expensive you think cybersecurity solutions are, security breaches will cost you more. Even if you pay a ransom, there's no guarantee you'll get all your data back. You're also more likely to become a target if your small business is a subcontractor for a larger corporation. Hackers may attack you to gain access to the more valuable data held by the partner organization.
Common Cybersecurity Attacks
Whether they're targeting a small, medium, or large enterprise, bad actors consistently aim for sensitive data. They steal credit card numbers, addresses, insurance information, and associated details.
If you want to prepare adequately for attacks, you must understand the various methods hackers employ. Because cybercrime evolves continuously, we can't possibly list all the potential threats. However, the following are the most common:
- Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs): Hackers take a cautious, long-term approach to avoid detection. They’ll breach your network in phases, then try to remain undetected once inside. If you happen to detect the breach, they’ll most likely have identified other vulnerabilities they can use to continue stealing data.
- Distributed Denial of Service: This threat is famously known as a DDoS attack. Hackers send abnormal traffic to your network to overwhelm the server. Your website or network will shut down if it can't handle the overload of requests.
- Inside attack: This breach occurs when current or former employees with administrative privileges deliberately misuse their credentials to steal confidential company data. Ex partners and staff who left on bad terms are the most likely culprits. Your small business should have clear guidelines to revoke such credentials once they leave the company.
- Malware: Malicious software is an application that gains unauthorized network access to cause damage. They include ransomware, trojans, spyware, viruses, and worms.
- Man in the Middle attacks (MitM): This breach is common for online transactions and other processes that require more than two parties to facilitate. Hackers will identify a weak point and install malware to interrupt the flow of data.
- Password attack: The most basic password attack involves guessing until the hacker gets it right. More sophisticated versions use a program to guess the password or a keylogger to track your keystrokes.
- Phishing: This method uses legitimate-looking websites and correspondence to trick you into providing sensitive information such as credit card and login details.
- SQL injection: SQL’s status as a popular coding language also makes it a preferred option for cybersecurity breaches. Hackers can collect sensitive business data by injecting malicious code into your servers.
- Zero-day attack: If attackers discover flaws in the software before its developers, they can use them to commit breaches. Such attacks can go on for months or years until the developer releases a patch.
How to Improve Network Security
As digital products evolve, so does the demand for innovative cybersecurity measures. According to research, global spending will continue to rise. The best solution for your small business is to implement multiple security solutions.
They include antivirus software to defend against malware, as well as hardware and software firewalls. Other cybersecurity measures are backup solutions, encryption software, and multi-factor authentication.
Additional Best Practices
Apart from software-based solutions, your small business will benefit from the following additional cybersecurity measures:
- Regular software updates: Hackers will always scan your network for system vulnerabilities. The faster you update your applications, the harder you make it for them to attack.
- Employee training: Educate your staff on all the methods bad actors may use to trick them. They should be able to identify signs of phishing and malware.
- Outlining formal security policies: Implement and enforce security policies that all employees must follow. Hold regular meetings and seminars to stress the importance of cybersecurity.
- A practical incident response plan: Although preventive measures are better, you must prepare for actual breaches. Your staff should respond quickly and effectively to contain attacks before they cause too much damage.
Your small business is bound to enjoy long-term growth if you implement these cybersecurity solutions and best practices.