For those who own small businesses, it is tempting to think that you don’t have to worry about cyberattacks. After all, why would someone bother to hack your small company when they could get a lot more money from a larger company? The answer to that question is very simple: You are probably a lot easier to hack than a huge multinational corporation. Thus, some attackers will choose the easier target over the richer one. That’s why every business, no matter how small, requires at least some degree of cybersecurity.
Small Businesses Get Targeted Regularly
To give you a better idea about the situation, let’s look at some examples in which small businesses were hacked. First off, we might look at the Rokenbok hacking incident. Rokenbok, a small toy company in California, was targeted by hackers in late 2015. Ransomware was used to lock their entire system, shutting them down completely. Instead of paying the ransom, they did the smart thing and restored their system from backups. However, they still lost a lot of money in the process.
One company that suffered a lot more was Efficient Services Escrow Group. Because they were a financial services company, their systems were connected to numerous bank accounts. These were hijacked at some unknown point, and large amounts of money were transferred to entities in Russia and China. In total, about 1.5 million was stolen, and most of it was never recovered. About six days later, the state government of California shut the company down.
As you can see, some small businesses are able to recover from high-profile cyberattacks, but those are the lucky ones. When researching this subject, we found that many people were citing a false statistic, so let’s take a minute to clear those misconceptions. Many online articles claim that 60% of small businesses that get hacked are forced to shut down within six months. This statistic is claimed to come from a group called the United States National Security Alliance.
This group has publicly stated that the statistic does not come from their research. In fact, no one seems to know exactly where this number came from at all! This is probably just a case of bad information being passed around because too many people failed to check their sources.
At the same time, small businesses do get hacked pretty often, and the damage tends to be pretty devastating. For some better numbers, we might consult this security report from Verizon. This one gives us a much more realistic picture, claiming that about 407 small business hacking incidents were discovered in 2019. By contrast, about 8,666 incidents were recorded for larger businesses. However, when we limit our gaze to the incidents that involved verified data disclosure, the gap narrows considerably. When we look at it that way, we get 221 small-business incidents and 576 large-business incidents.
Tips For Small-Business Cybersecurity
Now that you understand the scale of the problem, you might be wondering how you can protect yourself and your SMB. Unfortunately, small businesses often don’t have the extra money to invest in high-quality cybersecurity. As such, we will focus on the cheapest solutions and precautions that we know.
First of all, you should change all your passwords right now. This won’t cost you anything and doesn’t take very long, either. Chances are, your passwords are not secure enough, as most people do not use strong passwords. If you use common words, short phrases, birthdays, or other obvious things, there are programs that can crack the password in minutes.
These types of breaches, often called brute-force dictionary attacks, can take many failed guesses at your password, learning just a little bit more from each attempt. If the password is simple and common, it might be cracked in as little as five minutes. However, the good news is that these programs can be defeated. All you have to do is use passwords that:
- Are 19-20 characters long
- Contain both letters and numbers
- Contain both uppercase and lowercase letters
- Do not use common words, phrases or dates
Another good thing to do is frequent data backup. Hackers will often try to extract money by locking your data, as in the example given earlier. A recent data backup, however, can allow you to restore your system without paying those filthy criminals one dime. However, like the company in our first example above, you are still going to lose revenue because of the downtime involved. Still, that’s a lot better than being shut down like the second example company!
You might want to consider using a VPN service to encrypt your network connections. This won’t be free, but these services do tend to be cheap. You can, of course, shop around and look for one that offers a good deal. However, you should be sure that you choose a VPN provider that has a good reputation and a history of effectiveness.
If you’ve got some really sensitive information to protect, you might want to store it on an offline computer. Even the best hacker cannot penetrate a machine that isn’t connected to the internet, so that really is the safest method. Just make sure that you keep that computer in a well-secured room, and you should also encrypt its hard drive for good measure. This is probably the cheapest way to have truly secure data storage. External hard drives can also be used in this way, as long as you don’t connect them to an online computer. An offline computer can only be hacked if someone gains physical access in some way.
There is no doubt that every business needs some degree of cybersecurity. Whether you are selling bicycles, cookies, or nuclear reactor parts, there is probably someone out there who wants to rob you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you aren’t an appealing target for these people, because you might very well be.
At PCH Technologies, we offer the very finest in small business computer support services. Our IT computer services staff can help you to secure your small business, and our rates are some of the best in the business. If you would like to know more, please call us at (856) 754-7500 today.