Why Your SMB is a Prime Target for Hackers (and What You Can Do)


Tech Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for IT pros

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Small businesses might think they’re below the radar of hackers, but the automated weapons of cyberwarfare make them just as much a target as large firms. This is why you need to think proactively about cyber defenses to ensure your small company is resilient to digital attack.

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Why Your SMB is a Prime Target for Hackers (and What You Can Do)
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The “it won’t happen to me” mentality of optimistic bias follows many people through life into the working environment. That’s why there are laws about requiring smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in offices, and a need for insurance and anti-burglar cameras or other deterrents in many businesses.

Yet there’s no rule to force a small company to install security software on its PCs and servers, and no mandate to train staff about phishing and other types of cyber attack. Much of that false sense of security comes from business owners not being aware of the risk of digital crime, even though there are plenty of articles warning them about the millions of hack attempts every day.

That’s why under 20% of SMBs use firewalls or anti-malware software and 87% still don’t believe they’re at risk. Recent data from Verizon shows that as SMBs move to cloud services, they appear to hackers more often like larger firms, and criminals who select the quickest and easiest path to their victims are just as tempted by smaller targets.

With most computers, printers and other devices hooked up to the internet, your business is just as likely to be a target. SMBs are an attractive proposition to criminals as they’re less likely to have digital security in place, or to update apps and services to address the latest vulnerabilities.

Once hacked, they’re less likely to have the tools to notice any intrusion and are more likely to pay a digital ransom quicker, while a large firm will go through several rounds of management crisis meetings before coming to a decision.

SMBs also have just as much attractive data for hackers, from customer records to sales details and databases that are less likely to be backed-up, so if they’re held to digital ransom, the firm is in deep trouble.

How to address the cybersecurity gap

The first issue most smaller firms will need to address is the implementation of a comprehensive security policy. That means every device, network and endpoint is protected to business standards. Most classic defense tools like firewalls and antivirus software can be installed easily and updated automatically, while cloud protection services can run instantly and provide a range of network defenses for the business.

Someone needs to be in charge of making sure those tools are operating, reading the reports generated by them and resolving any issues. They should provide basic information for all workers of the types of threats we all face, from scams to fake invoice emails and phishing attempts.

More advanced modern solutions provide an all-in-one approach to protection. Unified threat management (UTM) provides a range of services including intrusion detection and prevention services, data loss prevention, virtual private networks, protection against denial of services (DOS) attacks and email and web filtering.

They sound more complex, but when delivered by a security service provider or integrator, all the hard work is done for you. If you aren’t sure of what steps to take, Fortinet offers a simple four-step guide.

Advanced tools for cybersecurity

Further up the scale of protection is endpoint threat detection and response (ETDR). Endpoints are any devices that connect to your networks, and ETDR monitors them live for suspicious activity that it can alert you to.

Next-generation firewalls do similar tricks like monitoring all application activity for threats, burrowing into packets of data for anything that could pose a risk and using zero-day technology so they aren’t relying on days or weeks-old updates.

Another trend on the rise is “zero trust” services that ensures all users within the network or visiting from outside are authenticated and continuously validated before being allowed access to applications and data.

The personal touch to cybersecurity, every user matters

Whatever the technology you adopt, it’s really down to the people you work with to keep the business safe through awareness and training. Having a team or someone in charge of digital and data security creates a focal point for delivering services and information.

Offering regular training through emails, webcasts or third-party events can highlight the risks to all workers. Running tests to check that people won’t fall for common tricks is now a valid part of most business improvement to ensure security.

In the remote work era, there’s a greater need to ensure that workers and their devices are protected and the data stored on them is secure. IT security can go beyond viruses to identify issues like CEO fraud where fake invoices are emailed, or even a fake voice call from a boss that tricks people into revealing bank account details or making withdrawals to criminals.

Such is the growing number of ways that digital methods can be used by scammers and criminals that it really doesn’t matter about the size of the business. Every company is a target and every WiFi router, printer, laptop or application is a potential weak point that could let the criminals in.

That could be through one of the millions of automated attacks happening every day or a criminal who spots a specific vulnerability within your office IT and plans to make use of it. The volume of attacks will only increase and the costs or penalties (for breaching GDPR or other guidelines) will grow too, leaving inaction the worst of all options for a business, no matter how small.

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