Cybersecurity is rarely one of the top concerns for most business leaders, and this is doubly true when it comes to small business owners. As a small business owner, you already wear so many hats that it is understandably hard to take everything into consideration. It's easy to place your focus on how to increase sales with existing customers and other revenue-generating tasks, especially if you aren't technologically savvy or don't consider your business to be tech related. Unfortunately, you should change that way of thinking for many serious reasons if you want to prevent small business cyber attacks in 2023.
The Evolving Cyber Threat
Worldwide, over 500 million unique attacks were perpetrated on business entities. In 2021 alone, 16% of victim enterprises were attacked only once, but an astounding 60% were hacked two or more separate times. Looking at a minuscule snapshot of recent times, the proceeds of cyber attacks in September 2022 were 35 million individual files. Those files contained sensitive data of all kinds.
If those numbers weren't scary enough, the average cost of a data breach would have skyrocketed. Some of the most common cyber attacks are ransomware attacks. In these instances, a cybercriminal gains access to a network or system and then holds it hostage pending a ransom payment. Looking at just this method, the average cost of a ransom in a ransomware attack has grown from $500 in 2016 to over $800,000 in 2021, and that's just the ransom demand payment. The total cost of recovery efforts averages $1.4-1.85 million per event.
You may think that small businesses are unlikely to be the target of criminals looking for such a large payday, but the data is clear. Small businesses account for approximately 43% of data breaches, and over 60% of those businesses file for bankruptcy protection within six months of the breach. The most common types of attacks facing small businesses are:
- Social engineering – 57%
- Lost or stolen devices – 33%
- Theft of credentials – 30%
That should put cyber security on the radar of even the most complacent small business owner. Here are some of the best ways to prevent small business cyber attacks in 2023.
Small Business Cyber Security Tips
Invest in Quality Education and Training
As a small business owner, you already rely on each member of your staff a great deal. This means they need to be equally involved in your cyber security efforts. With such a high percentage of social engineering and phishing attacks facing small businesses, it's critical that you teach your employees what to look for in suspicious emails, phone calls, and text messages and provide them with ongoing realistic training to reinforce that information.
Not only are your employees your first line of defense against cyber attackers, but they also are often the first ones in a position to realize the symptoms of a data breach. Prompt notification of abnormal behavior detected on the affected computer systems can save significant headaches in the long run. The average time to detect a security breach is over 190 days. The long-lasting damage of a successful cyber attack only increases with time left undetected.
Cyber Hygiene for Remote Workers
Remote work only seems to be getting more common. With that increase comes a corresponding increase in the possible attack vectors that a cybercriminal may use. While it's best to ban personal devices for work purposes outright, we recognize that this is only sometimes realistic for a small business. Personal devices should be prohibited from accessing sensitive data like customer social security numbers or payment methods.
Making sure that your remote workers are using a VPN, having at least WPA2 security protocols enabled on their home networks, and discouraging public WiFi use are all extremely important to ensure your staff is accessing your data securely. The cost of providing each employee a personal hotspot to connect a laptop to a cellular network is much less than the potential fallout of a security breach.
Effective Password Policies
One of the essential ways to prevent small business cyber attacks in 2023 is to implement a strong password policy, as they are the bread and butter of a robust cyber security program. Strings of unrelated words that involve numbers, capitalization, and special characters make passphrases even more difficult to brute force. Multi factors authentication should be standard, requiring different passphrases for each system and mandating that every employee has their login credentials is key.
You can also encourage your staff to use a password manager to store their passwords in a secure and encrypted vault for easy access. This defeats the temptation to write them down and inadvertently lose them or leave them accessible to someone else.
A wide array of possible cybersecurity software solutions could apply to your business circumstances. At a minimum, we recommend using antivirus software and anti-malware programs.
Backups and Updates
The best cyber security software in the world is utterly worthless if you don't regularly check for updates and install them. Software vulnerabilities will occur, and failing to install the ensuing patches leaves the proverbial door open for bad actors. In addition, scheduled backups of your sensitive data should be made, and it's a best practice to store that information encrypted and offline somewhere to help conceal it from any intruder.
Planning for the Inevitable
It's unpleasant to think of a data breach as a foregone conclusion, but statistically, you're more likely to be the victim of a cyber attack than not. Developing your security plan with an eye on an eventual attack is the best way to ensure your preparations are meaningful.
Develop and Implement an Incident Response Plan
Suppose you have trained your employees on recognizing attempts at a breach and what computer systems experiencing a security vulnerability may look like. In that case, it stands to reason that you should provide them with a full-fledged response plan to implement when those events occur. Reinforcing this plan by running drills and practicing its use is the only way to put it to the test. You should try and be as specific as possible and address everything from immediate notifications to be made all the way through logging and after-action reporting procedures.
Purchase Cyber Insurance
Like any other high-risk area, companies offer insurance to protect against cyber attacks. Based on your industry and the threat you face, it may be worthwhile to consider purchasing cyber insurance to help defer costs incurred from a potential breach.
While we aim to help you prevent small business cyber attacks in 2023, there are other focuses besides that. At E-Marketing Associates, our goal is to help your small business succeed. Our products and software are designed to help your business grow.