Though it was already past closing time and everyone was already making their way to the door, our customer service line was ringing nonstop. I took one last glance towards the door, laid my jacket on the chair and picked up the receiver. I already knew the caller would be frantic; it must have been a tech emergency because no one would be calling past closing time unless it was something drastic…and it was.
I barely had time to utter hello before the caller, a local small business owner, started shouting on the other end, “we’ve been hacked!” The caller couldn’t believe hackers targeted his small business. He was sure his business was too small to be a worthwhile target for hacking, but even the smallest businesses have confidential information about their employees and customers that should be protected.
This small business owner had inadvertently exposed his customer’s credit card information to unscrupulous individuals. While we were quick to shore up the holes in their network to prevent further exploits, the damage was already done. He was mortified when he had to alert his loyal customers to the security breach. Who wouldn’t be?
Small Businesses are Prime Targets for Cyberattacks
Most of us are familiar with the data breaches experienced by Anthem, Target, Home Depot, Adobe, and even the US government. These multi-billion dollar businesses may seem to be the most obvious targets, but the reality is that breaches in smaller companies are far more likely. According to Symantec, nearly half of the cyber-attacks worldwide last year were perpetrated against small businesses with less than 250 workers. In fact, in a 2016 poll, 85% of small businesses fell victim to some sort of cyber attack in the past 12 months, a 14% raise since the previous year.
The House Committee on Small Business has cited small business cybersecurity as a top priority and conducted multiple hearings on the dangers posed by cyber-attacks on small firms within the past 12 months. Cybercriminals have increasingly been targeting small businesses over the past four years as major blue chip companies have been beefing up their security. Cybercriminals view small businesses as a soft, easy mark, and in many ways, they may be right.
Cyberthieves find it easier to prey on small businesses because they have fewer defenses than larger organizations. Most small companies don’t have a large annual budget to offset the expenses of in-house IT or expensive cybersecurity measures. By their very nature, thriving small enterprises are innovative and niche, something that is very attractive for a hacker who is interested in getting their hands on customer data or intellectual property. These cyber crooks know how to pick the weakest targets.
Ransomware is Worming its Way into Small Business Networks
Cyber-foes are getting savvier too. Ransomware is becoming a bigger problem, especially for small to mid-sized companies who have issues with unpatched systems and lax security practices. In the past, malware like this relied on users to click on poisoned website or email links, but these newer exploits are less dependent on user’s taking any action.
There are several a number of varieties of ransomware out there like Cryptolocker, Locky, TeslaCrypt, Petya, and Samsam that have targeted small businesses, hospitals, and even major news sites like Newsweek, Fox News, and BBC. These programs attack machines and encrypt files before their victims even realize what has happened. Victims then must pay a hefty ransom, usually via an untraceable currency like bitcoin, or hope they have recent backups to spare them from a significant data loss. Removing ransomware and restoring lost files can be an expensive process.
Turning the Tables on Cyberthreats
With all these threats out there, what’s a small business owner to do? The first step in mitigating security risks is to perform a risk assessment. There are a few things small business owners should be asking themselves:
- Do we store any sensitive credit card or personally identifiable information?
- Are online banking and accounting activities being performed on business computers?
- Who has access to protected information?
Asking questions like these helps you understan what type of information needs to be protected so you understand where to get started. From a technological perspective, most risks to a small business comes from web-based or email-based attacks. Smaller organizations should focus on protecting these channels. Email and web-filtering technology is a must.
Small businesses can also benefit from cloud storage services that help mitigate attacks by backing up sensitive data, allowing infected system can be restored. However, security leaks can and do happen in the cloud. It’s vital to find a reputable cloud service that maintains current security protocols.
Better yet, seeking out advice and expertise from a reliable service provider can help you ensure your equipment and software is set up as securely as possible to help you protect your business from threats and avoid financial losses resulting from data breaches. Exposing customer’s information or intellectual property by not securing the information from a data breach can lead to a lawsuit or a loss of revenue.
Worse yet, sensitive information can be accessed and passed on by third parties. Our most recent presidential election and the DNC hacking scandal was a perfect illustration of this type of scenario. Simply put, just installing antivirus software isn’t enough. Small businesses must go the extra mile in today’s day and age to protect their business and protect their customers when it comes to cybersecurity. It’s a brave new world online, and it’s vital to keep up with all the threats that are out there. Neglecting to take cyber security seriously can leave your business vulnerable to the growing threat of cybercriminals.
If you’re ready to get serious about protecting your business from today’s cyber threats, Greenbrier Technologies is here to help. We have services designed to protect your business and improve your business operations all while simultaneously saving your business money. Download our free ebook or contact us today to learn how we can help.
Melissa is the new kid on the block at Greenbrier Technologies & Electric. When she’s not tag teaming with her husband trying to wrangle and engage their two young daughters, you’ll find Melissa finding new and exciting ways to share GTE’s story and build relationships with folks in the “other” valley. The Greenbrier Valley may be the original home of GTE, but Melissa is quickly showing the team why the Shenandoah Valley is the place to be!
Who we areWhen Greenbrier Communications was first established in the late 1990s by founder and current president Bill Lenherr, it was his goal to provide the Greenbrier Valley and surrounding region with a much needed local option for Internet service. By 2001, when Lenherr joined…
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