Top 3 Cybersecurity Threats for SMEs
Hackers are increasingly focusing their attacks on smaller businesses.
For as long as there has been an Internet, there have been individuals trying to find ways to exploit its opportunities – and its weaknesses.
While hacks are often considered to be a threat mostly faced by government agencies or large, rich companies, the reality is that hackers have been increasingly turning their attention to smaller or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that SMEs tend to have less robust cyber-security infrastructure and protocols in place, making attacks easier to execute on them than larger targets.
Indeed, according to data from CNBC, 43% of hacks targeted small businesses, and cost companies an average of US$200,000. Despite this, only 14% of small businesses actually had effective measures in place to defend themselves against cyber-attacks.
We’ve previously written an article exploring some of the key measures that you can take to boost the defenses of your IT network.
In today’s article, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the most significant threats facing SMEs from a cyber-security perspective – and the steps that can be taken to prevent them.
1. Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware attacks involve hackers capturing a company’s data and then encrypting it, essentially holding it “ransom”. The hackers then demand payment from the company in order to release it.
These types of cyber-attacks are rising in popularity due to their profitability for hackers.
Companies that suffer these attacks are often faced with a tough question: paying crippling amounts of money to reacquire their data, or face the threat of having that data permanently lost.
Both these options can be a potentially devastating blow to their ability to conduct their business: research by the US National Cybersecurity Alliance has shown that over half of all companies that suffer a cyber-attack will go out of business within six months.
SMEs are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks: according to one study, in 2018, 78% of these attacks targeted small businesses, with an average ransom demand of US$116,000 – not a small amount of money for a company with tight profit margins and operating in an already-tough economic environment.
While some SMEs may not have enough cash on hand to fulfil the demands of hackers holding their data, the data itself can often be valuable enough for cyber criminals, who can sell it on for large sums to others that want to exploit it through identity theft.
EU regulations such as the GDPR now make it a punishable offense to not properly protect customer data. Companies that suffer a breach of their customers’ data may face the double-threat of having their reputation irreparably damaged, as well as being subject to serious fines from regulators.
While the most high-profile fines for data breaches so far involve millions being paid out by companies such as British Airways, JW Marriot and Google, EU regulators are also becoming stricter, and are now regularly fining small business owners for insufficient customer data protection measures that lead to breaches.
So, how can SMEs protect themselves against ransomware attacks? Some of the most effective ways are to establish Confidential Computing systems that allow data processing to take place in protected execution environments, and a Cybersecurity Mesh, which secures all of a network’s various devices and endpoints.
As well as strengthening the security of all of the various nodes on a network, this approach can allow a network manager to quickly identify and take steps to prevent an attack from reaching critical company data.
Another key step is to ensure important company data is consistently backed up, ideally in a place that is inaccessible from the internet, such as an offline database.
2. Phishing Attacks
Phishing has become the most preferred method for hackers to gain access to individuals and companies’ IT systems because the tactic makes use of a vulnerability that can often not be protected by even the most advanced IT security systems: human psychology – and error!
Phishing essentially involves getting a user to click on a link that then allows hackers to access their network.
This can happen in a myriad of different forms, ranging from a video link in a message from a friend’s social media account that has also been hacked, to more complex schemes that involve hackers posing as interested customers that trick managers into clicking on malicious links.
One of the only technological solutions for protecting a company from phishing attacks is to have an advanced Email Security Gateway in order to guard against malicious links reaching you or your employees’ inboxes, as well as established protocols for reporting any suspicious links that make it through.
However, the most effective protection against phishing is to have your team undergo Security Awareness Training, which can educate them on basic best practices for mitigating cyber-attacks that use social engineering and other human manipulation tactics.
3. Malware Attack
A malware attack involves hackers implanting malicious code into a computer or company network. Many different mediums can be used to achieve this, from connecting to compromised devices, to clicking on malicious links in spam emails or websites.
Once the malicious code has entered a computer network, it can then begin destroying data, or providing back-door access for hackers to capture a company’s critical information.
Hackers have now devised highly sophisticated technical tactics for launching hundreds – or often thousands of malware attacks on different companies simultaneously – meaning that they can often gain significant rewards from multiple SMEs.
As is the case with ransomware attacks, companies can implement various technological measures to protect against malware attacks, which include robust web security, as well as confidential computing and cyber-security meshes.
Internal Errors & Threats
One of the most-overlooked, major cyber-security threats to SMEs unfortunately comes from the behaviors and habits of employees – or ex-employees.
These threats can range from common mistakes such as using easy-to-guess or repetitive passwords, to critical lapses in judgement that result in clicking on a phishing link – or even more malicious behavior from individuals that have internal access to a company’s networks.
While it is impossible to fully protect any computer network from internal threats, having robust cyber-security measures in place, including Security Awareness Training for your teams, can go a long way.
It will also help to have a clear understanding and management of different security access levels for different employees, which can help prevent network users form having access to data that they don’t need.
When enlisting the services of external IT teams, it is also important to have clear agreements and protocols for data management and access, and to be sure that you are dealing with a professional IT provider that understands the importance of data protection and confidentiality.
Do you want to create a web or mobile application that is built to the latest IT security standards, by a company that understands and respects data security? Contact us to find out how Bocasay, expert of offshore it projects, can be your reliable IT partner.