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Tyler Thepsiri

By: Tyler Thepsiri on April 11, 2024

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Top 3 Cybersecurity Threats For Small Businesses (& How To Stay Safe)


Cyberattacks continue to be a growing threat for small businesses. According to estimates from Statista's Cybersecurity Outlook, the global cost of cybercrime is expected to surge in the next five years, rising from $8.44 trillion in 2022 to $23.84 trillion by 2027. 

The most recent statistics from the FBI's internet crime complaint center (iC3) indicate that in 2021, the organization received 847,376 complaints of suspected cybercrime, with reported losses at $6.9 billion. (2021 Internet Crime Report)

As manager, engineering services at Kelser, I make it a point to keep up on the latest threats and trends in cybersecurity. In my eight years working in IT, I have helped many organizations and small businesses enhance the security of their IT infrastructure.

In this article, I’ll guide you through what I consider to be the top three cybersecurity threats for small businesses and provide you with some tips on keeping your business and sensitive information safe.

Why Is Information Security Important?

In a world where businesses heavily rely on technology for communication, transactions, and storage of information, safeguarding sensitive data has become essential. A lot of sensitive data flows through company computers and devices and this data can be stolen and exposed. Implementing a strong information security program can help businesses stay on top of cybersecurity threats and make sure their sensitive information stays confidential and available only to authorized users.

What Is A Cybersecurity Threat?

Cyber threats have the potential to damage, destroy, disclose or distribute information. Cyber threats also can provide unauthorized access to IT systems and disrupt the daily online activities of users. 

Top 3 Cybersecurity Threats

Here is a list of what I consider to be the top three information security threats for small businesses:

1. Phishing

Phishing is the most commonly used social engineering attack. All social engineering efforts are designed to trick people into divulging or gaining access to sensitive information

Phishing ploys typically use some kind of “bait” to attract and lure users into providing sensitive information.

Whether that information is in the form of login information, social security numbers, banking information, sensitive credit card data, or something else,  the goal of a phishing attack is to gain access to otherwise secured data.

Related article: What Is Phishing? (& Tips To Avoid It)

How Does Phishing Put Your IT Infrastructure At Risk?  

Phishing attacks can occur via email, but can also be carried out through phone, text, or social media. They are designed to look like they come from a source the user knows.

Whether the source appears to be a neighbor, friend, co-worker, or bank, at first glance the message may look legitimate.

The message will usually contain a sense of urgency indicating that your account has been compromised or that you need to confirm sensitive information immediately to protect your information.

As a general rule, any time you receive correspondence that asks you to click on a link, don't click automatically. Pause and think.

Related article: Why Is It Important To Provide Security Awareness Training For Employees? 

2. Ransomware 

Ransomware is a specific type of malware that encrypts user files on a device and makes files and systems unusable.

How Does Ransomware Put Your IT Infrastructure At Risk? 

Ransomware is often spread when employees click on a link in a malicious email or download something from an infected website. 

The malicious software is installed without the user’s knowledge. Sometimes it begins working immediately, but it often lays dormant for a while before it activates. 

Once the malicious software is activated, your data is encrypted, your network is unusable, and your business is shut down. Cybercriminals demand a ransom payment in exchange for removing the ransomware and reactivating the network

3. Poor Cyber Hygiene

Poor cyber hygiene is often the result of users trying to make things easier.

How Does Poor Cyber Hygiene Put Your IT Infrastructure At Risk?

Rather than use a password manager to securely store unique passwords for various websites and applications, people often use the same password for multiple sites. This makes it easier for hackers to gain access.

Or, maybe multi-factor authentication (MFA) isn't turned on because there is a perception that it will make life difficult for users.

With MFA, hackers need to provide multiple pieces of identification before accessing an application, website, or other IT service. MFA provides an extra layer of protection for your network.

Other times, people install a network device (like a wireless router or smart device) and fail to change the default account settings, which opens the door for cyber criminals who can easily find or guess these common passwords. 

Inconsistency and a lack of policies and procedures can also lead to poor cyber hygiene. 

Does your organization have everything it needs to keep your data safe? If you can't definitively answer yes to this question, download our free cybersecurity checklist to find out 10 actions you must take today to strengthen your cybersecurity efforts.

Get Your Cybersecurity Checklist

How To Keep Your Organization Safe 

There are several steps you can take to keep your organization safe and protect your infrastructure. These steps are usually easy to implement, but you’d be surprised how many people leave themselves vulnerable by not taking them.

1. Patch

Keep your operating system and devices patched and up-to-date. Vulnerabilities in outdated software can be exploited by cyber criminals.

Patches often include updated security protocols to protect against the latest threats. 

2. Change Default Passwords

When you install hardware components, make sure to change default passwords and create unique passwords for each device or account.

3. Vulnerability Assessment

Consider performing a vulnerability scan or penetration test

A vulnerability scan uses an automated tool to identify everything that runs on your network and see what open information can be accessed. 

A penetration test is performed by an IT professional who pokes around your network to see what vulnerabilities exist and what would happen if someone were to exploit them.

4. Early Threat Detection & Monitoring

Invest in monitoring tools that help detect cyber threats early and respond to cyber incidents in real-time. These tools will give you the ability to investigate any suspicious activity the minute it happens and take appropriate action if necessary.

5. Specific Policies And Procedures

Create specific policies and procedures. Update them often to reflect new operating systems, software, and threats.  

6. Data Back-ups

Backup your data and make sure that the backup procedures you have in place actually work. That way the data will be easily accessible when you need it.

7. Anti-virus/Anti-malware

Install anti-virus and anti-malware software to detect threats. 

8. Employee Security Awareness Training

Offer security awareness training to your employees. 

Learning to recognize and avoid risky behaviors (such as enabling macros, clicking on questionable website links, or downloading and running suspicious files) can help employees protect your organization’s network and data

9. Up-to-date Filters

Keep filters up to date. While this won't protect you from everything, it's a good place to start. 

10. Verify

Know the signs. If something looks suspicious, check it out

If you get an email that looks legitimate, but you aren't sure about it, consider calling the sender via telephone or stopping by the office of a colleague if appropriate to check it out through another source that you know to be reliable. 

Whenever you have the impulse to react spontaneously, pause to think it through first. Retrain your brain.

Where Do You Go From Here?

In this article, we’ve outlined the cybersecurity risks and potential costs of cybersecurity attacks on small businesses. We’ve identified 3 common threats to businesses: phishing, ransomware, and poor cyber hygiene. We’ve also discussed 10 ways to protect your organization from these threats.

Related article:  10 Easy Actions To Improve Cybersecurity In Business and Life 

You now have the information you need to combat these three cyberthreats facing your small business. Information security is a shared responsibility that requires ongoing awareness, education, and implementation of best practices. You may have the internal staff you need to implement these important steps to keep your data and infrastructure safe. You may need help from an external IT provider. 

If you are considering working with an external IT provider, we encourage you to check out several providers to find one that is the right fit for you. We take this advice so seriously that we've even done some of the legwork for you. 

Read this article for an honest comparison of IT Direct and Kelser based on public information available on the internet. As consumers ourselves, we know the first thing we do when making an important purchase is to search the internet; we figured we'd save you a step. 

So, check out several providers and make sure you ask the right questions before engaging with an external IT provider

About Tyler Thepsiri

With more than 10 years in the IT industry, Tyler is able to adapt quickly to almost any technological issue. He understands how systems should work, and specializes in security and compliance.

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