We have all seen the headlines where a major business like SONY, Target or Home Depot have had their digital systems breached. While these breaches are serious and newsworthy, they unfortunately fail to inform the general public of the larger threat that exists to small businesses. Reckard and Hsu (2014) write that “…for every high-profile case, there are dozens of threats to confidential data held by everyday enterprises: wine shops, dentist offices, colleges, gay and lesbian community centers, makers of dog tags, defense electronics, sports gear.”
As we all know, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Securing their data is therefore a major concern not only to the owner, but to the general public as well.
Research indicates that 60% of small businesses that have their digital systems breached will close their doors within six months of the attack. You read that correctly, 60% will go out of business if they are breached. Think it can’t happen to you? A Data Breach Investigations Study by Verizon indicated that “…71 percent occurred in businesses with fewer than 100 employees”. The study also indicated that the number of attacks on small businesses is increasing at a record rate.
There are various reasons for the uptick in cyber attacks on small businesses, but the primary reasons are that such businesses, operating on limited budgets, cannot afford sophisticated cyber defenses, have limited knowledge of the issues surrounding cybersecurity, and do not have dedicated IT personnel.
“60% of small businesses that have their digital systems breached will close their doors within six months of the attack.”
The task of cyber security may seem daunting to a small business owner, but there are some simple steps that can be taken to limit their chances of a breach. First, start with the basics of anti-virus software on their system, and be sure to keep it updated with patches. Next, be sure that default passwords are replaced with strong ones that are at least 8 characters long and include upper and lower case letters interspersed with numbers and special characters, for example 7Hbd&M2K. Finally, be sure to apply the concept of ‘least privilege’ when granting access to your system. Not everyone should have the same level of access as the business owner so grant access on a ‘need to know’ basis.
No cyber defense is perfect but even a small defense can forestall intruders. Consider the analogy of a thief on a dark street…they avoid the lite homes and move on to the darkened ones as easier targets. Make your digital system the lite home on the street. Learn about cyber threats, cybersecurity laws and policies, and ways to protect your small business with Cybersecurity for Small Businesses and Nonprofits, a recently published mini-book.
Wishing you continued success in your business!
Connor, C. (2013). Are You Prepared? Record Number Of Cyber Attacks Target Small Business. Retrieved from the Internet at http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/09/14/are-you-prepared-71-of-cyber-attacks-hit-small-business/#37340d71630a
Reckard, E. and Hsu, T. (2014). Small businesses at high risk for data breach. Retrieved from the Internet at http://www.latimes.com/business/