Small-business owners wear many hats. Until recently, "cybersecurity expert" usually wasn't among them. But headline-grabbing cyber-attacks are no longer only concerns to enterprise businesses. Small business owners are very much at risk. In fact, some of the smallest companies—with revenues of $100,000 to $500,000 annually—can expect as many cyber-attacks as those earning $1 million to $9 million annually.
In a cyber threat landscape that's as quickly changing as it is vast, small-business owners must be informed about the latest types of threats—whether they seek to fend them off on their own or with the help of a trusted partner. Here, we'll explore some of the top cyber threats that SMBs need to be vigilant about and discuss what entrepreneurs can do to help protect their businesses and customers.
1. Ransomware attacks.
Ransomware attacks have emerged as a grave concern for SMBs and cyber-criminals are expected to continue their relentless pursuit of locking businesses out of their data. Ransomware is a type of cyber-attack in which malicious software (malware) is used to encrypt a victim's files or entire computer system, rendering them inaccessible to the target. The attackers then demand a ransom from the victim, usually in untraceable cryptocurrency, in exchange for a decryption key or tool that can unlock the encrypted data.
These attacks can bring operations to a standstill, lead to data loss, or even wreak financial havoc on a small business. To help safeguard their businesses, entrepreneurs should invest in robust, redundant backup solutions and train employees to recognize phishing attempts, which are the primary delivery method for ransomware.
2. Software vulnerabilities.
Software vulnerabilities pose significant challenges for small businesses from a cybersecurity perspective. These vulnerabilities, which often stem from unpatched or outdated software, serve as potential entry points. Cybercriminals actively exploit these weaknesses, using them as gateways to compromise systems, steal sensitive data, or launch damaging attacks. And small businesses, who often have limited IT resources, can be especially susceptible if they do not have the means to regularly update and secure their software.
"The devices that you are using to run your business need to stay up to date because operating systems release patches often. It's something that a lot of people overlook because it doesn't seem that important, but do not skip on those updates," says Sukhjinder Singh, Senior Director of Product Management at Comcast Business.
The consequences of such breaches can be severe, including financial losses, damage to reputation, and legal repercussions. Entrepreneurs should work closely with their teams to stay informed about software vulnerabilities and implement timely patches.
3. Botnet attacks.
These are a form of cyber-attack in which several compromised computers, known as "bots" or "zombies," are controlled remotely by a single attacker or a group of cybercriminals. These infected computers, often part of a network of compromised devices, are then used to carry out various malicious activities.
Botnets are a significant threat in the world of cybersecurity due to their use in launching large-scale attacks and performing a wide range of malicious activities. "Typically, the attacks aren't directed at small businesses, and they may not cause damage to you directly, but what's at risk for small businesses is the use of their resources, whether that's computing power or network bandwidth," Singh says.
Small businesses can protect themselves against botnet attacks by educating employees on cybersecurity, enforcing strong access controls, keeping software and security programs updated, employing firewalls and email filtering, conducting network monitoring, maintaining regular offline backups, segmenting networks, performing security audits, and fostering a culture of reporting. Collaboration with a managed security services provider can also help protect your business.
4. IoT vulnerabilities.
The network perimeter for small businesses has been redefined, as businesses of all types rely more on connected devices to improve efficiency and customer experience. However, the use of Internet-connected smart devices—or the Internet-of-things (IoT)—for business operations presents an expanded opportunity for cybercriminals, and entrepreneurs should be vigilant about securing them. Security weaknesses among IoT devices, or endpoint devices as they're often referred to in the security space, can lead to data breaches, unauthorized access, and disruptions in business operations.
To counter these risks, entrepreneurs should establish strict security protocols for IoT devices, including regular updates, strong password policies, and technology solutions that help detect and defend against potential threats. Comcast Business offers advanced network security solutions that can help protect devices connected to a business network, helping to defend against potential threats.
Top digital threats to know about and how to keep your business protected.