Small business cybersecurity is not a hot topic. Small businesses can be excused for believing they are protected because destructive cyberattacks primarily affect major corporations, which frequently make the news. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Small businesses experience numerous cyber-attacks, but they don’t receive the same attention. The small business cybersecurity figures listed below are proof of this from various industry sources.
According to Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Report, 61% of small and medium businesses (SMBs) had experienced a cyberattack in the previous year. The results could be disastrous as well. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach 2023 Report, SMBs incur an average loss of close to $3 million per incident as a result of data breaches. A data breach or cyberattack results in the closure of around 60% of SMEs, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States. According to Cisco, 40% of small firms that were the targets of cyberattacks had downtime of eight hours or more.
Small business owners should be extremely concerned about these numbers. You might, however, be left wondering why small firms are the targets. Why would the attackers do this? Let’s examine some of the cybersecurity issues that small businesses are exposed to in order to respond to this question.
Threats to Small Business Cybersecurity
We must first comprehend the ideas of targeted and untargeted cyber-attacks in order to comprehend the cybersecurity concerns that small businesses confront.
Small Business Cyber Attacks: Targeted vs. Untargeted
Cyberattacks that are specifically directed at particular people, companies, or markets are referred to as targeted attacks. Prior to strikes, attackers frequently conduct research on their targets and may create specialised attack plans and tools. Targeted cyber-attacks can result in significant data breaches, ransomware assaults, and sabotage through DDoS attacks and are more damaging and successful than untargeted ones.
The reasons why small businesses are targeted are numerous. They are easy targets, which is the most obvious explanation. Small businesses might lack the resources and expertise necessary to manage fundamental security operations. However, what is to be gained? I guess a lot. Even while small firms might not have the same financial clout as huge corporations, amateur hackers may be able to achieve their goals by launching a ransomware assault to extract a few thousand dollars. Some software businesses might have valuable intellectual property that is unique and valuable, which could be stolen and sold for a tidy profit. Small firms that have access to a larger organization’s network as a supplier or partner are also targeted by well-known cybercrime organisations. Attackers acquire considerably easier access to the target organisation than they would if they attacked it directly since access through the tiny company is frequently trusted.
Untargeted cyber-attacks are those in which no particular person, business, or sector is the target. Instead, malware sent indiscriminately to many people or spyware installed on websites and compromised software infects users (such as phishing emails). Damage from malware outbreaks can take many different forms. For instance, some malware leaks information to the criminal who planted it. Keyloggers log keystrokes in order to steal login information. Spyware keeps track of user behaviour.
Malware infections can be contained to the infected endpoint and are less devastating than targeted cyberattacks since they might not be followed by an attack. However, small businesses are also much at danger from malware infections. Malware was the most common cyberthreat in 2023, according to an Intuit assessment of 2,031 small enterprises in the US. Its prevalence was 18%.
Now that you are aware of the cybersecurity risks that small businesses must deal with, let’s go through 10 best practises for protecting your company from these risks.
10 Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small Businesses
Install Next Generation Endpoint Security
A group of security products, including the more well-known antivirus software, are referred to as endpoint security. These security technologies, which are placed on endpoints like desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices, are made to stop malware infections and cyberattacks as well as to detect them and react to them. Since endpoint devices are where the majority of malware infections and cyberattacks start, small organisations may be vulnerable due to weak or nonexistent endpoint security.
Small organisations shouldn’t, however, implement any endpoint security programme. Only known malware may be detected by consumer-grade antivirus and antimalware software employing signature-based detection. Given that more than 450,000 new malware samples and malware variants are produced every day, signature-based detection is inadequate in the current threat environment. The next generation of endpoint security products, endpoint detection and response (EDR), is advised for small businesses to purchase. EDR is capable of detecting threats through behavior-based detection in addition to detecting malware based on existing signatures. Behavior-based detection functions by spotting abnormal and suspicious behaviour that deviates from the endpoint’s typical activity. The most recent viruses and complex cyberattacks can be found using this method.
With the use of cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, ManageX Endpoint Secure, our industry-leading endpoint security solution, can identify even the most sophisticated attacks. Visit the Endpoint Secure product page to learn more about its benefits and top-notch performance in tests against ransomware and other types of threats.
Use unified firewall management.
The most fundamental security measure that firms must implement is a firewall. Similar to how a security guard manages who and what can enter and leave a building, a firewall regulates what traffic is allowed to enter and exit a private network. A firewall accomplishes this by keeping track of traffic and filtering it according to pre-set criteria. Traffic that disobeys these regulations is stopped. As an illustration, incoming traffic from a presumed malicious IP address (potential malware penetration) or outgoing traffic to an unidentified location (possible data exfiltration or command and control). Additionally, firewalls can be set up to prevent access to particular kinds of websites that reduce worker productivity.
Most PC operating systems have a software firewall by default, and the Windows Firewall is perhaps the most popular option for small businesses. All OK, but how are the firewalls being controlled? For a firewall to be effective, rules must be consistently applied to all users and devices and updated often in response to fresh threats. Without a unified management platform, IT managers would have to set up each firewall individually to accomplish this. This is incredibly ineffective and is not advised in real-world situations. IT managers can build up a domain environment to centralise the management of firewalls in order to more easily guarantee that firewall rules are consistent across users and devices.
Software firewalls can be useful, but they have limited security features, are vulnerable to hacker attacks, and can use up system resources. They might be adequate for some small firms, but they might not be for others. For improved firewall protection, small businesses should think about spending money on an enterprise-grade hardware firewall. To determine whether an enterprise firewall is what your business needs, see our enterprise firewall buyer’s guide for SMBs.
Utilize managed detection and response services (MDR Services).
Small businesses should be aware of how to strengthen their cybersecurity posture, but they might not have the funding to carry out the necessary actions. This makes sense given that small businesses often have limited financial resources and are unable to afford sophisticated security measures or to hire specialised cybersecurity personnel. In fact, due of the worldwide talent shortage, businesses may find it challenging to find specialised cybersecurity professionals.
Managed detection and response (MDR) services could be the solution for small businesses that want to improve their cybersecurity operations but are constrained by the aforementioned issues.
A company can use MDR, a security service, to have a cybersecurity firm handle its security operations. The MDR service provider’s security technology may be used to provide remote MDR services via the internet. Security operators continuously scan the surroundings of the client for threats from the MDR service provider’s 24/7 security operations centre (SOC). Security operators will respond to threats or help customers respond when they are detected, depending on the nature of the danger. Small organisations can benefit from fully functional security operations with MDR without having to spend money on pricey security equipment or deal with the hassle of finding and keeping qualified cybersecurity professionals.
Visit the main page of our Cyber Guardian MDR service or read the following article about MDR from our experts to learn more about MDR services.
Always update all software
Software updates are vital because they apply patches to any known vulnerabilities in addition to adding the newest features. Software faults that an attacker can use to get access are referred to as software vulnerabilities, or bugs more often. In actuality, one of the primary access points to systems and networks is through software vulnerabilities. The programme is more prone to malware infiltration due to vulnerabilities. For instance, internet browsers with security flaws may enable malware to automatically and without user input download onto the PC from a website that is infested with malware.
Numerous pieces of software used by virtually every business have vulnerabilities that are frequently found. Operating systems including Windows, macOS, and Linux, web browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, and Oracle’s MySQL, for instance, are discovered to have some of the highest vulnerability rates in 2022. Software manufacturers frequently publish brand-new updates to their products to fix vulnerabilities, but updates only work when they are installed. IT managers are responsible for making sure that all software on all company-owned devices is quickly updated. In environments with numerous PCs and even more software items, this can be a significant difficulty. Fortunately, there are security products like ManageX Endpoint Secure that offer centralised operating system vulnerability detection and patching.
The next article provides comprehensive explanations of how to comprehend vulnerabilities’ impact and potential for exploitation, how to maintain track of new vulnerabilities, and why it’s crucial to do so.
Set up corporate awareness training for phishing
Probably, you’ve heard of phishing emails. These bogus emails are designed to appear as though they have been sent by reputable businesses like Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, and PayPal. These emails’ subject lines and body copy are designed to trick recipients into opening attachments, clicking links, and providing sensitive information like login credentials and credit card numbers. To put it briefly, they might cause malware infection and the beginning of a cyber-attack.
Email scams have been around for a while, but they still manage to be rather effective. The most common strategy for network infiltration in cyberattacks has been found to involve targeting phishing assaults, often known as spear-phishing. Unfortunately, security measures can’t guarantee that no phishing emails will end up in recipients’ inboxes. This places the responsibility for phishing attack defence in the hands of email receivers, which is not the most comforting idea when you wonder how adeptly your staff members can recognise a phishing email. Therefore, it’s essential to reduce the risk by giving personnel phishing awareness training. Simulated phishing attacks are useful for evaluating how well the training worked. Since the company’s security against phishing is only as strong as its weakest link—it just takes one employee to make a mistake to bring the entire organisation down—this must be a company-wide effort.
Small organisations may want to work with a reputable cybersecurity firm like ManageX if they lack the funds and knowledge to organise phishing awareness training and simulations. Please feel free to get in touch with us to learn more about the cybersecurity awareness training we can offer your company.
Backup Important Information to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
A harmful form of malware known as ransomware encrypts files and makes them unavailable. Attackers then demand a ransom from victims in exchange for a special decryption key that allows them to retrieve their data. The likelihood is that victims who refuse to pay lose their data. In either case, ransomware attacks can have a significant negative financial and business impact on businesses.
Regularly backing up your systems, especially those that include crucial data and applications essential to business continuity, is an excellent defence against ransomware assaults. Backing away will allow you to resume operations without yielding to the assailant’s demands.
Companies have a variety of choices for backing up their systems. On-site storage is where backup files are kept while using local backup. Backup files are kept in cloud storage facilities, also referred to as remote backup or cloud storage. The advantage of having expert security provided by the cloud service provider for cloud backups. The ability of enterprises to recover their operations without paying a ransom may be hindered by some highly skilled attackers who search for and erase local backup data. To accommodate more backup needs, cloud storage is additionally scalable on demand.
ManageX Disaster Recovery Management (DRM) solution is also available to small enterprises who cannot afford any downtime for their operations. With ManageX DRM, users can replicate their important systems to an external data centre (DR site) in real time. Systems will automatically failover to the DR site in the event of a system failure brought on by a cyberattack or natural disaster that causes significant data loss or damage in order to maintain business continuity. Once the systems have been fixed, all previous data as well as all fresh data since the failover can be retrieved to the primary site.
Monitor all IT resources
To keep a strong security posture, it’s essential to know what hardware and applications are employed in your company’s IT infrastructure. If you stop to think about it, you can’t defend something if you don’t even know it exists. Assume, for instance, that the IT manager is unaware of a laptop that is connected to the company’s network. In that situation, they are unable to guarantee that the laptop is configured with the necessary firewall rules, that the required security software is loaded, or that the operating system and software are current. Due to a bring-your-own-device policy that permits employees to use their home laptops for work, the issue of unaccounted assets is perhaps more severe in small businesses. It’s unlikely that a company policy would demand that employees report each new IT hardware they connect to the network, including Internet of Things devices like printers.
These unidentified devices, sometimes referred to as shadow assets, are more susceptible to hacking and put the security of the entire network at risk without sufficient protection. Conduct an asset identification effort to create a comprehensive asset inventory to reduce the risk of shadow assets. Sort the assets into categories and secure them based on their requirements. Create a system that requires staff members to notify management of any new devices they join to the company’s network. For businesses with hundreds of devices, it is understandable that keeping track of all assets is a laborious task. ManageX Cyber Command and other security solutions can help with this procedure. In order to provide IT administrators with total asset visibility, Cyber Command is equipped to monitor the whole network, identify, and classify all connected devices, including PCs, laptops, servers, mobile devices, and IoT devices.
Turn on two-factor authentication.
One of the key accelerators of cyberattacks is lax access control. An account with a weak password is comparable to a home with a basic lock in the eyes of hackers. Using a brute force attack, where a list of popular passwords is tried using hacking tools, hackers can easily gain access to the account. Other instances, passwords are taken via employing phoney login pages that keep a user’s login information on file. Attackers have unrestricted access to user accounts once they have successfully entered valid credentials. For instance, a high-ranking company official’s compromised email account could be used to instruct staff to transfer money or divulge private information. An active directory account that has been compromised enables attackers to spread their malware to all network devices.
Setting strong passwords helps, but depending on employees to do so is useless because there will always be people who use the same, simple passwords across all of their accounts for convenience’s sake. Even then, hackers can still use a variety of techniques to harvest tougher passwords. The best practise for securing account access is to enable two-factor authentication (2FA). Users must submit two distinct authentication factors in order for 2FA to function. They are aware of one factor, which is their username and password. The second element is something they possess, such a one-time passcode they obtained on their phone. This makes sure that even if attackers manage to guess the password, they are prevented from accessing accounts. Many accounts used in daily business operations support 2FA, and turning it on wherever possible is strongly advised.
The article that follows goes into greater detail on two-factor authentication and offers a comparison to assist readers understand how it differs from traditional two-step authentication.
Avoid Using Software Cracks
Since genuine software licences and subscriptions can be quite expensive, it’s possible for small businesses to use cracked or illegally obtained software on their systems. This could be the result of a top-down cost-cutting policy or specific employees who turn to using pirated software because they assume their employer won’t pay for the original version. However, cracked software not only violates the law but also endangers its users invisibly. Anyone utilising cracked software runs the risk of infecting their devices because a significant fraction of it contains malware.
In order to prevent a top-down policy of utilising cracked software to cut expenses, top management must be aware of the security concerns. Be aware that charges significantly in excess of software licence and subscription fees may result from a successful malware infection or cyber-attack. Create a system for employees to request software licence purchases and subscriptions as well, so they don’t just assume the business won’t pay for them.
Disallow or limit the usage of USB drives
Even while businesses are using online storage less and less to transfer their work information between devices, USB sticks still present a risk to corporations. This is particularly true for small businesses that don’t have subscriptions to online office suites like Google Docs and Office 365.
Despite what you may believe, personal USB drives can become infected with malware if they are placed into a computer that has malware. The issue with USB drives that are obtained from unreliable sources is another. Early in 2023, the FBI revealed that malware-infected USB sticks had been given to US businesses in mail packages that seemed to be from the Department of Health and Human Services and Amazon. If the safeguards to prevent the USB from connecting weren’t in place, unsuspecting employees who introduce malicious USB devices like these into a network machine would seriously jeopardise the organisation.