Cyber attacks are on the rise. Even corporate giants like Marriott International and Facebook have been unwitting victims. But these large corporations aren’t the only ones who should be concerned about digital crime.
A report from Barracuda shows that small businesses are three times as likely to get targeted by cyberattacks. On average, employees of businesses with fewer than 100 staff members experience 350% more social engineering attacks than employees at bigger enterprises.
The report also noted that some workers at small businesses are at higher risk of cyber attacks than others. It cited the fact that hackers tend to target high value accounts, such as those of CEOs and CFOs, who are twice as likely as subordinates to have their accounts compromised. Once the attackers gain access to the accounts, they use them to gather business intelligence and launch strategic attacks within the organization. Executive assistants are targeted frequently because they have access to executive calendars and accounts and can send out messages on behalf of executives and their teams.
Why Hackers Target Small Businesses
It seems illogical for hackers to target small businesses when large corporations have more data and more money at their disposal. However, small businesses are prime targets for a number of reasons. The first being that busy entrepreneurs often delay or de-prioritize cyber security installations to save time and costs.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals have become aware of this trend, and have started to target small businesses. Especially those that don’t have the skills and resources needed to protect themselves and their sales platforms. Many small businesses aren’t aware of the dangers of cybercrime either. Research has shown that 37% of these entities don’t have cyber security measures in place, and a further 40% would not know how to respond if an attack occurs.
Even if you do have all the right security technologies in place, it may still be difficult to stop a security breach. This is why it’s essential to have a proverbial life jacket on hand. This life jacket is a strategic response plan for cyberattacks, and it will help you to quickly get such situations under control while mitigating potential damages to your business, its reputation, your customers, and your data.
Responding Immediately After a Cyber Attack
Your cyber attack plan should prioritize a rapid response to help minimize damage and loss of data and money. Your first step is to gain as much knowledge about how to act in the aftermath of an attack, as it’s essential to work speedily. You need to pinpoint a breach, know how to rectify it, and know exactly which measures to take to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Not every entrepreneur has this knowledge, but it is readily available. Seek out cyber security and IT experts who can provide guidance and give you the information you need to deal with cyber attacks as swiftly as possible. Consider legal matters as well. Regulations like the GDPR privacy bill dictate specific guidelines for handling data breaches.
According to the GDPR, you must inform your Information Commissioner’s office about breaches immediately after they occur to protect your business from malpractice claims and mitigation. Ensure that you have a lawyer available to offer support when attacks occur.
You also need to alert your customers of the breach. Depending on the scale of the attack, your industry, and the size of your customer base, you could face hundreds of messages from concerned consumers. Develop a plan for communicating efficiently with your customers across multiple channels. Always be honest about what’s taken place and how you plan to rectify the situation. While you should be honest, you also need to keep certain information private. Speak with a legal advisor to find out what your customers need to know in the aftermath of an attack.
Your staff’s response may make or break your cyber attack mitigation strategy. Train your employees on how to handle cyber attacks before breaches take place so that they’re well prepared to handle issues when they arise. Educate your staff about best personal security practices and ensure that they are cyber security-literate. Host regular refresher meetings to ensure that they know what they need to do to keep their passwords unpredictable, their login details private, and their personal devices secure.
Guarding Against Future Attacks
Prevention is better than cure when handling cyber attacks. It’s much easier to use preventative measures to protect your small business than it is to pick up the pieces after an attack.
Implement these measures to safeguard your business’s data, finances, and industry reputation.
1. Take Out a Cyber Insurance Policy
There are few better ways to protect your organization than by taking out a specialized cyber insurance policy. These policies are quite diverse and cover a wide range of eventualities and risks. Team up with an expert to find out which policies are best for your needs and how coverage options can change over time.
Certain insurance providers offer immediate response plans for cyber attacks and breaches. Others boast financial compensation clauses and in-house forensic security professionals to provide assistance. Research the policies available and choose a plan that covers your business comprehensively.
2. Use Tech to Your Advantage
There are hundreds of technological tools and safeguards that you can use to guard your business systems against invasion. Tools like web application firewalls and anti-malware and antivirus programs can help to protect your data, especially when installed on employees’ devices. Cloud-based accounting software can help to keep vital information safe too.
You should ensure that your eCommerce website is compliant with PCI-DSS Level 1 specifications and that your settings enforce limited access permissions. This will ensure that only employees who need access to your systems can obtain it. This can protect you from online data security network breaches that focus on targeting payment networks instead of credit cards.
Contact your hosting company and ensure that they have cyber security experts on board to patch security vulnerabilities. If they don’t offer this service, consider switching to a more secure hosting platform.
3. Identify Sensitive Data and Get a Security Specialist on Board
You need to know exactly what sorts of information your business stores, and how much of it is private or sensitive. Criminals will primarily target the personal data and banking details of your customers, as well as your own financial information. However, you could also be storing other high-risk data if you work in certain sectors like healthcare or financial management.
If you need guidance and assistance with protecting your business against cyber attacks, a security expert could be just what you need—budget dependent, of course. A security expert can assess your key risk areas and make recommendations to protect your data and your property, both on-site and online.
4. Keep Your Hardware Secured
Digital data breaches are in the spotlight in 2022. But physical hardware theft can lead to data and security risks too. Your business’s smartphones, laptops, tablets, personal computers, servers and electronics all need to be as secure as possible to ensure that if they’re stolen, your private data is not compromised.
If you have physical premises for your business, install cameras, security systems and alarms to keep criminals out. You can lock servers and computers in secure rooms to add an extra layer of protection.
5. Backup Your Important Data
Performing regular backups of your business data is crucial if you wish to protect it from threats and attacks. Data forms the foundation of most businesses, whether it’s your invoice templates, financial records, customer information, or documents pertaining to the day to day running of your venture. It’s important to be able to recover it in case of an attack. If you can’t recover your data, you may risk severe financial and operational delays after the fact.
Most small businesses back their data up to cloud-based storage services, which offer plenty of security measures to keep criminals out. You can also back your data up to physical hard drives, but these are vulnerable to theft and damage.
Proactive action is the key to protecting your business’s data against the many cyber threats that are prevalent in the age of technology. It’s simple to safeguard your enterprise against cyber attacks and hacking attempts if you know how to react rapidly when a breach occurs.
The best way to beat criminals at their game is to stay one step ahead. You can achieve this by using proven security measures and a strong cyber security response strategy to protect your business, your employees, and your valued customers.