As most businesses now store their data on the cloud and connect with their customers online, the cyber security threats posed to them are growing rapidly. Many small enterprises used to neglect online security issues due to the common misconception that smaller firms are relatively immune to threats when compared to their larger counterparts. But a spate of cyber security attacks like the WannaCry ransomware attack, which targeted businesses of all sizes over the past few years, made smaller enterprises aware of the threats to their very survival. In this article, we summarise the top 5 cybersecurity threats for small businesses in 2020, namely malware, ransomware attacks, phishing attacks, internet of things (IoT) leaks, and password attacks.
Small businesses account for nearly 58% of all cyber crime victims. Malware is the most common cyber security threat that is traditionally faced by organizations. Malware includes a wide range of cyber threats like worms, viruses, and Trojans. Developers of malware steal valuable data or destroy it remotely. In turn, the stolen data of businesses like customer profiles and credit card information is sold for a good profit in the open market. The threat posed by malware to small firms is growing as many of them embrace digital networks. Unsafe email systems and outdated operating systems are the gateways through which malware programs infect the network of an organization. That is why all the software used as part of the networks should be upgraded regularly. In cases where the small businesses are not in a position to regularly update their IT infrastructure, they should move to free but safer alternatives like Linux to protect their networks.
Ransomware attacks are one of the most dangerous cybersecurity threats for small businesses in 2020. Unlike malware, ransomware locks the sensitive data on the victim’s computer by encryption. In turn, attackers who develop ransomware crypto worms demand payment for unlocking the data. The data will be either lost or remain permanently encrypted unless the victim agrees to pay the ransom demanded. Ransomware attacks have been growing quickly over the past few years. In the year 2017, for example, the WannaCry ransomware crypto worm infected thousands of computers in 150 countries. The National Health Service (NHS) of the UK alone lost $100 million due to the WannaCry virus. The attack resulted in damages worth billions of dollars to organizations of all sizes. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to such kind of attacks as they cannot afford expensive security systems for their networks. According to cybersecurity analysts, many companies have not done enough to avoid a similar attack in the future and computers still work on outdated operating systems that do not get official security updates.
Phishing is a social engineering attack in which the login credentials such as passwords, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers of people are stolen. Small businesses with limited resources find it difficult to monitor and avoid phishing scams executed on their customers. This is because phishing attacks are mostly carried out through electronic communications like email and social media. Email is the most preferred messaging tool through which a phishing scam is executed. Scammers send phishing emails to customers pretending to be real companies and ask for their personal data. Social media phishing too has been growing in the recent past on platforms like Facebook. While social media remains a highly useful business instrument for both small companies and freelancers, there are still some security pitfalls associated with its use. Attackers create fake business profiles on social media platforms and steal users’ personal information through posts on their profile pages and personal messaging. In some cases, small businesses might themselves fall prey to phishing attacks and lose their personal data. That is why small companies need to protect their customers by investing in cybersecurity systems as they risk losing their credibility.
The rollout of technologies like 5G will make the Internet of Things viable in 2020. The importance of the IoT for small businesses is also increasing due to the growing reliance on data. Thus, the IoT will connect multiple devices like smartphones, machinery, alarm systems, web cameras, electrical equipment, medical devices, etc. and facilitate real-time data collection. Small businesses are able to collect data on their operations using the IoT that can be analyzed to gain unique insights into the functioning of their departments. Some of the areas where small businesses are deploying the IoT include monitoring traffic on websites/apps, collecting real-time information on patients admitted in hospitals, and monitoring the uptime of industrial equipment. However, many of the IoT devices that are now being deployed do not have any built-in safety features. Furthermore, small businesses cannot build them on their own due to their limited resources. This can create a potential backdoor into the organization that deployed the technology threatening its security.
Password attacks are also among the most common cybersecurity threats faced by small businesses. Unlike malware attacks, password attacks are simple to launch as they do not need the development of complicated software to attack other systems. Password attacks involve stealing the passwords of the servers and networks of an organization using simple hacking methods. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to password attacks as they use old-school authentication methods. Employees of smaller organizations use simple passwords that are easy to guess. Hence, by using two-way authentication methods and an organization-wide policy that encourages the employees to use hard-to-guess passwords, smaller companies can defend themselves against password attacks to a certain degree.
Small businesses need to guard their networks and databases due to the growing cybersecurity threats. According to a recent analysis on cybersecurity by Verizon, hackers are targeting business critical systems that store encrypted files and databases. Any major breach of data and loss of credibility can lead to the demise of small businesses. Hence, they need to upgrade their cybersecurity systems and protect their networks and databases. If small companies find it difficult to hire experts or procure other resources like software, they can outsource their cybersecurity to third-party firms that have experience in building and maintaining security systems.
Ellie Richards is an online Marketing Manager for SEO Outreach agency Outreach Lab. She specialises in research, content and article writing on various topics, including Education, Marketing, and Technology.