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7 factors that make your small business a target for cybercriminals

Small businesses are ideal targets for cybercriminals. While international government agents and ideological bad actors make headlines for their hacks of big financial institutions and federal infrastructure, small businesses are suffering hacks and breaches at an alarming rate.

Small businesses rarely have the resources put in place to properly defend themselves from hackers, let alone recover their losses after the fact. Being obscure is not a good defense and no business is too small to be hacked. Is your company in the crosshairs?

Is your small business a target for cybercriminals?

Consider these 7 factors that could make your small business a target for cybercriminals.

1: Rapid growth

Expansion is a hallmark of success in the business world. Every business owner wants their company to grow. However, the increase in web traffic that accompanies growth places added pressure on cybersecurity. Rapidly growing businesses need to be sure that the defenses they have in place scale along with their traffic and visibility. 

Hackers know that small business owners faced with a sudden influx of attention they were not prepared for can find themselves overwhelmed with their defenses spread too thin to provide protection from cybercriminals. 

2. Saving valuable client data

Companies that require keeping sensitive data on file are often on the shortlist when it comes to cybercrime. Businesses that provide healthcare, for example, store medical information, Social Security numbers, and even credit card information on file. This makes them prime targets for hackers in search of critical personal data.

A successful hack of a company holding such valuable info is too tempting to ignore. The bad guys know where to look for what they need to apply for credit cards, make fraudulent charges and claims in your name, or simply sell your data to those who wish to.

3. A remote workforce

Decentralized workforces are here to stay. Already gaining in popularity over the years, the pandemic has made working from home mandatory in many cases. While the conveniences and savings associated with not having a physical office space cannot be denied, remote workers put stress on a company’s cybersecurity

Without the ability to contain a network, a business’ security is at the mercy of wherever its employees log in. From coffee shops to home offices, cybercriminals do not discriminate when it comes to seeking out vulnerabilities that can be exploited to their advantage. A remote workforce is a cybersecurity liability.

4. Poorly trained staff

Cybercriminals are sometimes depicted as precise, calculating schemers. While in some cases that is true, the majority of them are opportunists. Phishing scams, malware, and password theft are common ways that hackers gain access to data they are not authorized to see, and none of them require anything more intrusive than an employee clicking a link in a seemingly reputable email.

Hackers take advantage of people by tricking them. A staff poorly educated in best practices with regard to cybersecurity is a major weakness.

5. Unprotected employee devices

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies save money and allow employees to feel comfortable with their technology. However, employees accessing company networks, files, or CRMs with their own unsecured devices opens the door wide open to security threats. 

6. Insufficient antivirus apps

Some small businesses cut corners by using personal antivirus apps as opposed to those designed for business use. The reality is that the personal versions simply are not up to the challenge of covering enough devices.

Additionally, many allow their antivirus software to lapse when it comes to updates, leaving gaps in their protection.

7. Previous hacks

A company that gets hacked once often finds itself succumbing the more attacks. As word spreads about an exploitable weakness, cybercriminals pile on. Due to many small businesses lacking the capital and expertise to invest in robust countermeasures, more than half are simply hacked out of existence.

How to be a hard target for cybercriminals

The world’s swift pace with regard to advancing technology requires fluid strategy to think a step ahead of the bad guys. Here are 5 key ways you can help keep your business off their radar:

1. Stay up to date

Antivirus software, operating systems, apps, and hardware should be kept patched and up to date. Software that is no longer supported should be retired. Old hardware not up to the task of keeping up with today’s sophisticated security threats should be swapped out and replaced.

Many business owners solve this problem by using refurbished firewalls or network switches. Purchasing refurbished, name brand hardware from a reputable dealer allows businesses to keep pace with technology without breaking their budget.

2. Use a virtual private network

Virtual private networks, or VPNs, keep your web activity out of sight using encryption. Using a VPN is a great way to keep your business network out of the spotlight, especially with workers staying at home.

3. Protect employee’s devices

If your company allows employees to use their own devices for work, make it mandatory that they keep their software updated, install adequate protection, and encrypt their devices whenever possible. 

4. Educate your staff on cybersecurity

Be sure that your staff is acutely aware that a great deal of cybercrime is preventable with awareness. Encourage them to maintain strong passwords and security questions, and instruct them to be mindful of mitigation strategies if they feel they have opened a malicious link or possibly lost a piece of hardware. Tight security is a team effort. Lead by example!

5. Have a cybersecurity audit performed

Cybersecurity audits are conducted by third party vendors. They provide a snapshot of a company’s cybersecurity, allowing organizations to validate the practices they have in place and make sure that they are being proactive with regard to their data security and compliance. By enlisting regular audits, companies can adopt a program that will allow them to continually assess their defenses against cybercrime even as their networks grow and become more complicated.

Sources

Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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