Cybersecurity Threats a Growing Concern for Small Business

If small busiesses believe their modest operations are of no interest to sophisticated cyber criminals, spies and activists, they should think again.

According to Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, small businesses account for the greatest number of cyber victims. Approximately two out of every three of these breaches goes unnoticed for months, or even years, costing millions in reparation.

The increase in cyber threats illustrates the dire need for information security experts and resources to equip small businesses with the tools necessary to persevere in the vulnerable yet necessary digital systems we use today. 

Why are Small Businesses in Digital Crosshairs?

Small businesses are susceptible to cyber attacks in part because they underestimate what they can offer to hackers. Businesses can sometimes assume a false sense of security that their information is of no interest to digital thieves, but also many don’t even prepare for the possibility of a breach.

A 2012 National Cyber Security Alliance Study found that 66 percent of companies with less than 250 employees were not worried about threats. Close to 60 percent lacked an emergency plan to respond to data breaches that might put customer, employee and company information at risk.

Combined, these factors create a potentially damaging mix of vulnerability. Small businesses end up devoting fewer assets to maintaining cybersecurity, like employing staff with information assurance degrees or providing awareness training for their companies. 

Without proper orientation of digital dangers or policies in place that govern online use, employees can unintentionally access sensitive information from unsecured mobile devices or open a phishing email from what appears to be a legitimate source.

Verizon’s report goes on to add that 75 percent of online attacks are not designed for a specific target, but are born out of the weaknesses a small business shows in its digital infrastructure.

How Companies Can Ward Off Cyber Threats

Small business owners can prevent or mitigate the impact of cyber attacks by utilizing professionals with information assurance training. 

Investing in information technology might not be a part of company owners’ original business goals, but IT experts might be integral to preserving a company’s brand and sensitive information. This demand is part of the reason the field of information security is growing faster than the average rate of all other occupations at 22 percent.

Cybersecurity specialists can show a small business which digital information systems require enhanced protection. They can make application recommendations for encryption, scanning, malware and safe browsing. A firewall can be set up to prevent penetration from an outside network.

These IT specialists can also utilize their network administrative skills to reduce employee access when necessary or block the installation of external applications that make a small business vulnerable.

If small businesses lack the expertise to actively fight an attack, an information security professional can implement a contingency plan to provide the necessary technical solutions that reduce impact to customers, employees and revenue.

This digital information strategy may include the creation and management of backup databases to protect accounting spreadsheets, documents and customer records. Backup may be configured to operate instantaneously or at predetermined intervals.

The skills and knowledge of cybersecurity specialists can be crucial to boosting the Internet safety and awareness of employees. They can show a small business staff how to detect phishing emails, spot signs of an infected computer and create stronger passwords.

Information Security’s Value to Small Business

Cyber criminals may be lured to large corporations to make waves in their overall workflow and to steal intellectual or bank account information. But small businesses should never forget that they have an equal target on their backs when they don’t plan for digital security weaknesses.

A 2013 Symantec Internet Security Threat report found that attacks on small businesses tripled since 2011. It pays for small businesses to invest in security solutions to preserve the integrity of their brand. Otherwise they risk losing millions in revenue and restoring workflow.

To accommodate the growing digital security demands of both large and small businesses, the value of professionals with cybersecurity experience cannot be underestimated. Learn how Regis University’s information assurance master's degree online or on campus is contributing to securing the global information systems that keep economies thriving and privacy intact.