“43% of Cyber Attacks Still Target Small Business while Ransomware Stays on the Rise”
Small Business Trends
“Small business attacks could prompt the next recession”
Headlines like these are becoming a common sight in tech pages of newspapers around the world. There is no denying that small businesses remain the easiest yet a most lucrative target for cybercriminals. There are several reasons for this.
The reliance of businesses on networking and cyberspaces has given rise to a number of challenges. Today, individuals and companies alike have taken extensive measures to ensure convenience for themselves and their customers. The internet has played a pivotal role in the process, but one crucial aspect has been ignored; security.
The lack of proper consideration towards cybersecurity has led to hackers enjoying some of the most fruitful years of their lives. Although companies have realized the threat, their efforts are too little, too late right now. Small businesses are the easiest targets as they don’t have the resources to thwart or recover from these attacks. This article sheds light on how businesses can protect themselves by playing it safe rather than sorry.
The rise of cybercrimes
Cybercrimes are nuisance all around the world. According to estimates from some of the leading sources in the world, by 2021, they are expected to cost about $6 trillion. This includes both households and industries.
$6 trillion is a massive amount! It is more than the GDP of Japan, which is the third largest economy in the world. Damages of this extent are not to be taken lightly.
While the internet and its use has grown exponentially, focus on safety measures has not. Hackers are able to exploit this weakness to their advantage. It is estimated that there is a cyber attack every 39 seconds and the average loss from each is around $150 million.
Hackers make use of sophisticated tools and techniques to infect target systems and take control of sensitive information.
Companies had no mechanisms in place until recently to deal with such attacks. They are now hiring professionals to help design security infrastructures, but hackers are still winning this battle. Facebook and IBM are just two of the big names who reported data breaches in the past year showing us just how vulnerable we are.
As we have a lack of resources to track and stop cyber attacks, there is also little or no legislation to punish the perpetrators. Governments and other authorities are passing regulations which govern how these criminals should be treated. There are still a lot of other challenges which have to be dealt with too. The pace at which cybercrime is growing is alarming and the responsibility of dealing with them falls on everyone concerned. Individual users and companies have to contribute by ensuring the safety of their own systems so that the overall damages can be brought under control.
Type of attacks
Hackers and cybercriminals have gotten intuitive in a number of ways. They use everything from the simplest techniques to sophisticated knowledge in order to get the job done. There are several types of cyber attacks which have been seen in recent years. While individual owners have also been targeted, businesses especially those seen as the target of choice.
Some of the common types include:
- Phishing: As the name indicates, this type of attack involves leaving a bait and waiting for the fish to get caught in the hook. Hackers use fake pages, surveys and other information collecting mediums. These pages are designed to look legitimate which is why employees fall into the trap easily,
- Ransomware: 2018 saw some of the biggest firms fall prey to ransomware attacks. These activities involve holding information for ransom. Hackers gain access to a system and encrypt some or all of the information in it. They demand payment in exchange for its release,
- Malware: This refers to any malicious software or elements gaining entry into the system,
- Man-in-the-middle: Hackers can intercept communications between a computer and the servers of the website they are visiting. They can then place themselves in the middle to steal crucial data.
There are many other types like SQL injection and denial of service attacks. Each has its own method and consequences.
Why small businesses should be concerned
The reasons for this are limitless. Small businesses are victims of almost half of all cyber attacks. The fact that hackers find them convenient targets is the first of many reasons to be concerned. With low and limited resources, small businesses don’t have the capacity to put up a state-of-the-art defence apparatus to deal with these threats. Hackers understand this and take advantage of it.
Small businesses are either start-ups or other entities which might be established but have a limited clientele. The priorities which they have regarding objectives and milestones to achieve are quite different.
Cybersecurity is naturally not high on these lists. The employees are usually not aware of the latest threats and ways in which attacks happen. Fail-safe mechanisms are also not in place to deal with any untoward incident.
A redundancy or back-up plan doesn’t require high investments. Simply keeping updated backups can help too. Small businesses usually underestimate or completely ignore the fact that they might come under attack.
This is the reason they fall prey easily. The most troubling revelation of all is the fact that most businesses which suffer a cyber attack close down within the next five years. This happens because small and medium enterprises are again ill-equipped to cope with the losses they suffer.
Healthcare is the industry targeted most often and in 2017 there was a 54% rise in malware attacks on mobile devices. Again, the bulk of these activities were reported from small or medium businesses. The employees in these organizations are not trained to look out for potential threats and negligence from workers is the most common cause of cyber attacks. Small and medium-sized companies, therefore, have a lot of reasons to be concerned.
Common avenues used by hackers
According to leading sources, 94% of all attacks come through emails. It might sound simple but the ways which have been used to infect systems through emails in extremely clever. Hackers use links or trusted file formats like MS Office attachments.
These files contain viruses. An email received with an attached file like this is obviously intriguing. As soon as an employee downloads the file and opens it, the malware gains access to the computer and consequently, to the company network.
Links can work even faster as they can direct to pages where surveys or quizzes await. Users are incentivized through rewards. As they fill in the relevant information, it is picked up by the hacker controlling that page. Once they have everything they need, they can make their way into the system being used by that person.
Employees fall for this trap because the pages collecting information are designed to look real and authentic when they are anything but. Employee training plays a significant role in helping them identify these threats, but small and medium businesses don’t always have the ability to provide them.
Hackers can also try to gain access through physical mediums like stolen devices. This is rare but it happens. The cybercriminals may try to get physical access themselves or through the people working in an office. Leaving your computer unprotected can prompt other people in the office to try and make away with information which can cause potential harm to the company.
How businesses can protect themselves
While it might sound like that only with a lot of money and planning can a robust cybersecurity system be put in place but that is not always the case. Small and medium businesses can do several other things to keep themselves out of the harm’s way. Not only are these options practical but they are efficient. Some of these include:
- Educating employees: The first step has to be employee training. It is not necessary to organize large scale events with professional speakers. The whole team just has to be briefed on the matter. This can be done by anyone who understands the threat at hand. Employee carelessness leads to most of the attacks which businesses suffer so it only makes sense that efforts be made to plug this leak,
- Invest in basic cybersecurity infrastructure: A small team of professionals looking after the affairs of the company is not a big hit to the bank. Of course, this step is for companies which are at a position in terms of size where this investment can be justified. Access to the network should be protected and limited to only those who really need it. Data encryption protocols can also be put in place to make sure that prying eyes don’t get a hold of your information in transit,
- Use of basic tools: Cybersecurity solutions don’t always have to be expensive. Some like anti-virus protection and VPNs are not only affordable but effective too. An anti-virus constantly scans the system for any threats and deals with them promptly. A VPN ensures anonymity while they are surfing the web so that no one can know. Many credible VPNs provide tailored solutions to cover the diverse needs a business might face.
Using a VPN to protect business networks and communication is quite productive. Not only is the solution quite simple but it is also affordable for small businesses. Besides, there are a number of other benefits too.
Benefits of using a VPN
A VPN can help businesses achieve a lot more than just network security. Cybercrimes are a huge challenge for small businesses and visible network connections as well as traffic is a part of the problem. VPN service providers with customized packages for business users offer a lot more than just traditional security. Here are some of the benefits which come with a VPN:
- Protection from intrusion: One of the most common ways in which hackers gain access to the system is because internet traffic is unencrypted. They can tap into the connection being used simply by employing the IP address from any of the devices on it. A VPN eliminates the chances of this happening because it masks the traffic making it undetectable to most,
- Regulatory compliance: New laws and rules require businesses whether small or large to comply with cybersecurity regulations. This can be quite hectic for businesses which have limited resources. Some of the laws require that businesses have a certain level of protective mechanism in place to deal with any threats. A VPN can help them do this. Moreover, corporate services provided by certain companies come with added features where they help businesses get up to speed with their compliance requirements,
- Keep employees safe: Some offices allow their employees to work remotely. This can mean that they might be using public network connections. These are hubs for hacking activities because the access to these connections is available to anyone. Cybercriminals thus can tap into these networks and spy what others are doing. This is where attacks like the man-in-the-middle originate. A VPN can effectively deal with this by making the connection of the user anonymous. When the traffic is no longer visible, the chances of hacking go down substantially.
That’s why a VPN is one of the most effective and resource-friendly ways to deal with the cybersecurity requirements for small and medium businesses. It makes the job simple by taking care of encryption, compliance and data traffic protection.
How a VPN works
VPNs have become quite common around the world these days. However, there might be some who are unaware of it or others who might be interested in knowing how it works. This helps them understand if it can really provide the protection it promises.
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a service designed to hide your IP address from the world. The Internet Protocol (IP) address is a combination of digits which can reveal the exact location of the device. Anyone who can view your IP address can also see what websites you are visiting, how long you stay on each and what information is being entered on them.
On a conventional internet connection, the Internet Service Provider is the person with the most power. Everything users, including business employees, search for and do is recorded with the ISP because they have direct access to your IP address. This is what a VPN eliminates. Instead of website access requests going directly to the ISP, they are rerouted to a secure VPN server. From there, they are sent back. So a user connected in the US can make everyone including hackers believe that they are actually sitting in Romania.
What small businesses should look for in a VPN
We have shed substantial light on the fact that a VPN is a necessary tool for small businesses. The lack of resources which they face can be simply overcome with the use of a VPN. For businesses who are looking to use this service, there are a few things which have to be kept in mind when selecting a trustworthy program. These include:
- Comprehensive coverage: A household VPN service is very different from a business application. For companies, there are many requirements like protection for the entire network and data encryption of massive bandwidth. A business VPN must always cater to these needs,
- Management of network activity: A business, even smaller ones have multiple users communicating with each other and with external users. This network is where all the sensitive information flows and a business VPN has to provide adequate coverage for this network. Before choosing a service, this is something that has to be taken into account,
- Dedicated IPs: Businesses at times have to access the internet or perform communication and transactions from a different part of the world. Dedicated IP addresses allow business users to achieve this objective without having to compromise on security. The dedicated IP whitelists an IP address which only those with authorized access can use it,
- Server deployment: A VPN has to provide this feature for clients dealing internationally. This feature allows employees to connect with team members, suppliers or customers in other countries by scaling the network whenever they want. Server deployment is also impacted by the number of locations in which the VPN service is available.
Other requirements may vary from one business to another. Owners have to make sure they perform proper research before selecting the appropriate platform.
In the wake of cybercriminals targeting small business frequently and with ease, it is important that they do everything in their power to protect themselves as much as possible. A business VPN like Ivacy can help them do that. With a user-friendly interface and a wide base of satisfied clients, Ivacy has been protecting its users from threats for more than a decade. In order to learn more about Ivacy, visit the website.
Published on May 30, 2019