When it comes to cybersecurity, small businesses face an extremely threatening online landscape. Attacks such as ransomware are strongly on the rise, according to a report by SonicWall. Successful ones can cost a business massive amounts of money — about $1,200 per employee, per Osterman Research.
If you think cybercriminals only go after large enterprises, think again: A 2022 report by Verizon found that 43% of all cyberattacks targeted small businesses. This is likely because cybercriminals are well aware that many small businesses struggle with maintaining sufficient cybersecurity, with their employees often lacking the proper training to recognize or respond to a cyber incident. To make matters worse, cybersecurity can be expensive, for some prohibitively so.
One of the best defenses against cyber threats is knowing what your business is up against. Here, we’ll go into a few of the most common types of online dangers small businesses are facing in 2023.
A type of malware, or malicious software, ransomware typically encrypts all data on a network before the criminal asks for a “ransom” to make the files accessible again. The business owner then has to make a choice: Either pay in the hopes that the other side will keep their end of the deal or lose invaluable company data, which could cripple the business.
Like other varieties of malware, the intent of the criminal is to trick an unwitting victim into downloading a file. Ransomware can come in the form of an email attachment, link, online advertisement or unsecured website.
There’s a silver lining to ransomware: Authorities can typically trace any funds back to the cybercriminal, allowing authorities to recover the ransom. They may ask for cryptocurrency; though this, like other forms of payment, is traceable.
Phishing is a unique threat and a form of social engineering, making it very different from malware.
This type of attack commonly poses as a trusted source asking for information, usually through a provided link that spoofs a website. The victim, believing the request to be legitimate, fills out the provided information, which can include company network information that leads to a data breach.
Other common requests for information include banking information or requests to wire company money.
Phishing attacks can be highly sophisticated, with the phisher doing research on the subject ahead of time to ensure their request appears as legitimate as possible. An effective phishing attack can look virtually identical to the real thing and will commonly include information that the victim believes only they — or the alleged source — would know. The criminal might even study and replicate the typing style of the source.
Training employees to recognize a phishing attack is one of the best countermeasures against them.
An inside threat is when an employee or contractor with access to a company’s sensitive data uses it for malicious purposes. They might sell the information on the dark web or copy personal information of customers for their own use, which might include usernames, passwords or banking information.
The best defense against this type of attack is to ensure everyone you hire can pass a background check. Additionally, administrators should be constantly monitoring the users on their network for abnormal activity, and to only provide the necessary amount of access to each employee.
Recognizing the types of attacks you’re likely to encounter as a small business owner is the first step to preventing and responding to them.
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