What makes a good target for hackers? Most would assume international corporations, banking institutions, or government networks to be likely candidates. As a result, many small business owners mistakenly believe they do not need to worry about network security. The vulnerabilities often present within small businesses can provide the ideal environment for cybercrime and it is reported that around 70% of businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees have been subjected to malicious attacks. Here are 6 reasons why small businesses could be targets for hackers:
1. Weak security means good practice for hackers
Hackers view small businesses as easily accessed training grounds to gain experience and data for larger, more disruptive attacks. A heavily fortified insurance company would most likely prove to be impenetrable, but waging an attack against a small business with very little protection can be a step in the right direction for an aspiring hacker path. Also, information required for larger attacks are regularly gathered from multiple sources. Your small business may have data relating to an individual who has an easily accessed Amazon account, or perhaps someone who also works at the city bank. Cybercriminals are adept at using stolen data to piecemeal login credentials or personal information that can be used for nefarious purposes, even if that data doesn’t seem particularly useful on its own.
2. Hackers can force your hand
Small business owners do not have the financial or logistical resources that high powered Fortune 500 companies do. Because of this, hackers may have the upper hand when it comes to attacks that require the business owner to hand over information or money. Ransomware attacks can be extremely effective when used against a single individual who has invested their life into their business and has little to no experience in information technology. When faced with the possibility of going out of business or paying up, hackers know that small business owners often feel they have no choice but to comply.
3. Your staff may not be properly trained
Most small business owners rely on their staff to screen emails or responsibly decline opening any unexpected or suspicious files. The possibility for human error is a vulnerability that makes you a target for hackers. Small companies are also at a high risk for fraud techniques in which a hacker will pose as another employee or CEO via email or social media and request sensitive information. These messages are made to look like official internal correspondence and can sometimes be nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. It takes staff with proper education, sharp eyes, and good judgement to avoid stepping inadvertently into a trap that could sink the entire company.
4. A small businesses is a soft target for hackers
Small businesses are perceived as low hanging fruit. It is up to their owners to turn the tide by taking data security as seriously as they do the locks on their doors by installing firewalls, using only the most reputable ecommerce websites, educating staff about the dangers of cyber attacks, and keeping their operating systems and software up to date.
5. Ex employees can make you a target for hackers
Dramatic as it may seem, disgruntled employees are sometimes a key element when it comes to cybercrime. Not only do they have access to administrative features not available to outsiders, but they may feel that perceived unfair treatment or a toxic work environment is reason to steal or cause disruption, especially in a personal, small business environment. Alternatively, they may have been persuaded to provide company secrets to competitors. In many such cases, rogue employees do not actually commit the act, but are more likely to provide login credentials to opportunists who seek to steal from the company or damage their reputation.
6. Small businesses are the ideal size to steal from
Petty thieves are successful because they steal small amounts from vulnerable people or places, not millions of dollars worth of art from the mansions of business tycoons and multinational corporate CEOs. The vast majority of cyber criminals are no different. Forget the Hollywood imagery of supervillain hackers utilizing room-filling touch screen interfaces to steal information from the world’s largest intelligence organizations and banks. The average hacker wouldn’t dream of taking on a major credit institution when the same sensitive information that they are after is readily available in smaller amounts from sources that aren’t adequately protected. Personally identifiable information is just as valuable when stolen from a corner drug store as it is from Bank of America. The difference is that the drug store will not have the capital to invest in tracking down who was responsible.
Do not be a target for hackers
Small business cybersecurity still has a way to go before it is as widely understood and acknowledged as high profile breaches. Modern business owners have started to take information information security more seriously. By staying well informed, using the latest technology, and following best practices with regard to data safety, small business owners can move themselves out of the cross-hairs of would-be thieves and protect company and client data. NetworkTigers has provided network security consulting and equipment since 1996.
Sources (target for hackers)
- 3 Reasons hackers love your small business
- 3 reasons hackers like to target small businesses
- Small business & cybersecurity: Why you should care
- 5 ways hackers can get into your business