5 Cybersecurity Nightmares SMBs Should Know About

Business.com / Security / Last Modified: March 2, 2018
Image credit: BeeBright/Shutterstock

Cybercriminals are always on the hunt for targets to exploit and make an easy buck from them – and small businesses are not immune to this. Here are five types of cybersecurity breaches you need to try to prevent as well as prepare for.

Since cybercrime damages are expected to grow beyond $6 trillion per year by 2021, it is high time for small and midsize businesses to identify the cybersecurity concerns that are a threat to their existence and take the appropriate measures.

1. Malware attacks

"Malware" is an umbrella term for malicious software that can infiltrate and compromise a system or an entire IT infrastructure. Hackers and other cybercriminals use a wide array of malware, with ransomware being the most common and effective.

Ransomware attacks infiltrate a target system and force-encrypt target files, documents or other sensitive material. To decrypt the content, users require a decryption key or a tool that only the hackers have access to. The hackers then ask the victim to pay the ransom to regain access to their files.

2017 saw a massive burst of ransomware attacks, the most prominent being WannaCry and NotPetya. The WannaCry attack affected hundreds of thousands of systems across the globe. In fact, the U.K. National Health Service had to turn down some routine checkups and essential appointments because of the attack.

What businesses can do to protect themselves against such attacks is update their systems, because most cyberattacks, like WannaCry, exploit a security vulnerability in the operating system. Moreover, businesses should install firewalls and antivirus or antimalware tools.

2. Insider attacks

According to a 2016 Ponemon Institute survey of 874 insider attacks, 22 percent of those attacks were carried out by malicious users (employees). The same report mentioned that 56 percent of organizations reported data breaches at the hands of employees who were leaving the company or new employees.

Amongst other concerns, insider attacks remain most troubling for both large and small businesses. Employees with privileged access to sensitive data pose a bigger threat to a company than outsiders. Those who are terminated may also pose a threat to the company's data if they harbor ill feelings for the company.

What makes these attacks most damaging is that they may go unnoticed for years. After all, these attacks are often caused by people the company trusts, and it is relatively easy for such malicious users to cover their tracks when working from inside.

To reduce or avoid insider attacks, companies should keep a detailed record of the employees with privileged access to the data. The company should also terminate the access of users who have left the company.

3. DDoS attacks

Distributed denial-of-service attacks are also a major concern for SMBs in 2018. In fact, Corero reports that the number of DDoS attacks doubled during the second and third quarters of 2017.

DDoS attacks are launched by botnets of malicious systems that propel a massive chunk of traffic to targeted systems, ultimately slowing the operations down and, in some cases, rendering the system temporarily unusable. As a result, businesses face huge damage costs.

DDoS attacks are not always carried out for the specific purpose of damaging the target network or system. They are sometimes a camouflage for other attacks, such as malware or data breaches.

To prevent DDoS attacks, SMBs should take a proactive approach. There should be a reliable DDoS mitigation system in place. And, if the company solely relies on its website business, it should increase the bandwidth and also use a CDN service with built-in DDoS mitigation.

4. Social engineering attacks

Social engineering is another security threat for small and midsize businesses to be aware of in 2018. The attacks rely on human interaction where the attacker poses as a trusted individual and exploits an employee into disclosing sensitive information. However, different types of social engineering tactics may result in an information or data breach, such as rotten emails.

Rotten emails are emails where the sender masks their identity as a contact the recipient may know and sends an attachment, which usually contains malicious links. When a user clicks on that link, the malware spreads out to the network, compromising the entire system.

Since these errors involve human exploitation tactics, it is imperative for companies to promote cybersecurity awareness within the organization. Employees should be educated about the security threats and how to minimize human errors. Moreover, there should be an information security policy that enforces strict rules on data usage.

5. BYOD threats

Companies are now allowing employees to connect to their network using personal devices. While the move may allow companies to increase business productivity or yield, it also puts the company's data security at serious risk. After all, there is no assurance whether a user is connecting to the network using a secure device or an infected one.

One solution to this problem is establishing clear BYOD (bring your own device) policies. Companies should take measures to ensure that the policies are strictly followed.

Another solution is to use a business VPN, which allows users to connect to the company's network through an encrypted tunnel. As a result, the users' data is kept completely secure regardless of the make, model or operating system of a device. 

Don't be a low-hanging fruit

Cybersecurity measures for SMBs start with getting rid of the misconception that they are not on hackers' or cybercriminals' radar. So, look out for these cybersecurity concerns in 2018, and take countermeasures accordingly.


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