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How to Protect Your Small Business from Dangerous Cyber Threats

6-minute read

Susan Hamilton

Susan Hamilton

21 June 2022

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As a small business owner, you already may be taking steps to protect your business from a store or office robbery. But did you know that theft of digital information has surpassed physical theft as the most commonly reported fraud?

Any business using the internet is at risk of a cyberattack that could result in stolen employee information, customer data, or intellectual property.

Fortunately, there are ways you can safeguard your business from malicious cyber activity. In this article, we’ll cover common types of cyberattacks on small businesses and ways to protect yourself with small business cybersecurity.

Let’s get started.

Do Small Businesses Need Cybersecurity?

Anyone with internet access and data is susceptible to a cyberattack, and small businesses are no exception. Cyberattacks are a growing concern, so cybersecurity for small businesses shouldn’t be taken lightly.

A new report shows that small businesses are three times more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals than larger companies.

Wondering why small businesses are more appealing to cybercriminals?

Here’s why hackers target them:

1. Small businesses are gateways to larger targets.

We’ve all heard about cyberattacks at large companies. It’s even possible that you or someone you know was affected by one of these significant data breaches.

You may not know that cybercriminals sometimes use a small business to dig a tunnel into a larger organization.

Tunneling is a hard-to-detect attack that routes DNS (Domain Name System) requests to the attacker's server, providing attackers with a hidden command and control channel. The attacker steals data by blending in with regular traffic and slips out through the same tunnel undetected.

2. Many small businesses don’t prioritize cybersecurity.

You may think your business is too small to be a target of a malicious attack. Assuming your business is safe because of its size is precisely what makes you so vulnerable! Hackers know that your small business may not have enough incentive to invest time and financial resources into cybersecurity.

As a business owner, implementing effective cybersecurity strategies is critical if you want to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

3. Small businesses are easy to manipulate.

When a small business gets hacked, it’s usually a fast-moving, high-stress situation.

Without cybersecurity, an attacker may easily trick a small business into disclosing sensitive information that might result in ransomware. That’s when a hacker steals valuable data and demands a ransom to recover the files.

Some small business owners may be unable to operate if they lose their data, so their only choice may be to pay the hefty ransom.

What Are the Most Common Types of Small Business Cyberattacks?

These days, cybersecurity for small businesses is more critical than ever. Before taking steps to improve your cybersecurity, ensure that you understand where your business is vulnerable, and be aware of the most common threats.

1. Phishing scams.

Ever get an email that looks a little fishy? Chances are, it’s a phishing scam. Email accounts are inundated with phishing scams, and they are among the most damaging and widespread threats facing small businesses.

Usually, an attacker pretends to be a trusted contact asking for personal information or login credentials. They may entice the unsuspecting user to click a link — after which the user’s computer gets infected with malware.

2. Malware attacks.

Malware is an umbrella term for malicious code that hackers create to gain access to networks, steal data, or destroy data on computers. If you click on a phishing email or a harmful download, it can damage your device and give attackers a back door to your data.

Be aware that personal devices are also at risk from malicious downloads, so small businesses should think twice about letting employees use their personal devices for work.

3. Viruses.

These days, there are so many viruses that it’s hard to keep up with them! Let’s talk about the ones designed to harm your computer. You can get a computer virus by opening infected emails, sharing files, visiting a malicious website, or downloading harmful applications.

When a computer becomes infected, a virus can damage or delete files, erase your hard drive, or even crash your system. Hackers also can use viruses to steal personal information.

4. Ransomware.

Ransomware is a specific type of malware — usually delivered through a phishing email — that infects a computer and essentially holds it hostage until a ransom is paid.

Wondering how much a ransom payment might cost?

According to ransomware incident response firm Coveware, the average ransom payment in Q1, 2022 was $211,259, and the median ransom payment was $73,906.

A recent report shows that 71% of ransomware attacks target small businesses. The same report states that small businesses are especially at risk because they are less likely to have their data backed up and more likely to pay the ransom.

5. Insider threats.

Insider threats are a growing problem — and cybersecurity for small businesses is essential if you want to block them. Insider threats are caused by the actions of employees, former employees, or even business associates who misuse their access to sensitive information.

Insider threats can happen unintentionally, but regardless of the intent, they can result in compromised data. Increasing your knowledge about insider threats can help you prevent, detect, and contain internal threats that could harm your business.

How to Protect Your Small Business from Cyberattacks

When it comes to cyberattacks, the faster you act, the better you can mitigate the damage. You can start by creating a plan for your small business that covers these cybersecurity best practices:

1. Use antivirus software.

Make sure your business computers are equipped with anti-virus software and anti-spyware — and keep them updated to improve functionality and correct security problems. A best practice against viruses, malware, and other online threats is to install critical software updates as soon as they are available, and run a scan after each update.

2. Secure your network.

Your business may have its own Wi-Fi network, but you don’t want to advertise it to the world. Keep it secure, encrypted, and hidden, and ensure your router's access is password-protected. Safeguard your internet connection with a firewall to prevent outsiders from accessing data on your network, and also ensure that employees working from home have firewall protection.

3. Train your employees.

Let’s face it. Your cybersecurity measures are most effective when your employees understand your most significant risks and follow your policies and procedures. Make sure they know how to handle and protect customer information and other sensitive data. Training employees on how to spot phishing emails and suspicious downloads can go a long way in helping to prevent an online attack.

4. Create strong passwords.

Snowman, Sunshine, and Hello123 are among the most common and weakest passwords. Simple passwords are easy to remember, but they may be putting your business at risk. Ensure that your employees set a secure password and change it every three months. To enhance your security, consider implementing a multifactor authentication method.

5. Back up your data.

When it comes to cyberattacks on small businesses, a data backup can protect you from the loss and corruption of ransomware and other malicious activities. Back up your financial files, databases, human resource files, and any other critical documents automatically, and store copies offsite or on the cloud.

6. Limit access to information.

The best way to stop an insider attack is to prevent one from happening in the first place. Employees should be given access only to the systems they need to do their jobs and should not be able to install any software without company permission. Another tip: Do not provide one employee access to all data systems.

7. Protect your payment processors.

Work with your bank or payment processor to ensure the most trusted anti-fraud services are being used. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs, and consider not using the same computer for processing payments and surfing the internet.

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How Cyber Insurance Can Help Protect Your Business

Hackers may be actively trying to disrupt your business and steal information from your customers.While, you already may have business insurance to protect against losses and liabilities, cyber insurance gives you an additional layer of coverage.

You can’t predict a cyberattack, but cyber insurance can help cover some of your losses if a cybercriminal ever hacks your business. With cyber liability insurance, you’re in a stronger financial position to react, respond, and cover the costs of getting your small business back online.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say one of your employees inadvertently clicks on a phishing link, allowing a cybercriminal to gain access and install ransomware. Your computer files are locked, and the hacker demands a large sum of money to release them. Cyber insurance can help cover the payment so you can get back to operating your business.

Cyber insurance can help cover, up to your policy limits, the high cost of claims associated with stolen customer data, cyberattacks, breaches, and fraud (up to your policy limits).

Here’s what cyber insurance usually covers:

  • Crisis management expense
  • Forensic and legal expenses
  • Fraud response expense
  • Extortion loss
  • Public relations expense
  • And more

Cyber liability insurance usually does not cover:

  • Potential future lost profits
  • Cost to improve system security
  • Loss of value from theft of intellectual property
  • And more

If your business suffers a cyberattack, it’s not only expensive — it’s time-consuming. You will want to know how the hacker got into your system, what data was compromised, and how you can safeguard your business in the future.

As a business owner, you may be responsible for:

  • Finding and fixing the breach
  • Notifying your customers
  • Providing credit monitoring for affected customers
  • And more

Cybersecurity can be overwhelming for small business owners, so we’re here to help you understand how cyber liability insurance fits in.

At Simply Business, we can explain the benefits of cyber insurance, and make it easy and affordable for you to get coverage quickly.

Start with our online quote tool right now and get a quote in 60 seconds.

When you’re ready to get covered, our licensed insurance agents can answer questions, walk you through the process, and get you insured, typically with just a single phone call.

Just call 855-869-5183, Monday through Friday, any time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. (ET).

Be Prepared for Anything.

Cyberattacks are worrisome. We get it. But as a business owner, you can take steps to prepare for the worst. With a small business cybersecurity strategy, you can rest easier knowing you have some preventive security measures in place.

When it comes to cyberattacks, staying one step ahead of a potential threat is the best defense.

Susan Hamilton

Written by

Susan Hamilton

I've always loved to write and have been lucky enough to make a career out of it. After many years in the corporate advertising world, I'm now a freelance writer—running my own show and contributing to Simply Business. Fun fact: I have three desks in my house, but I still do my best thinking walking in the woods.

Susan writes on a number of topics such as workplace safety, customer sales, and workers' compensation insurance.

This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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