In this fast-paced digital age, cybercrime has become one of the most prevalent forms of criminal activity. Now that more businesses conduct operations through the web, small brands have become the hackers’ primary target. Studies indicate that nearly half of cyberattacks focus on small businesses. Making it worse, within six months following a cyberattack, 60% of small firms go out of business.
If your company handles any sensitive information, preventing data breaches should be one of your top priorities. Knowing what a cybersecurity threat is and how your organization may encounter them allows you to keep your precious data safe and ensure business continuity for years to come.
What Is a Cybersecurity Threat?
Cybersecurity threats come in many different forms. They encompass anything that damages a system’s data, steals valuable information, or simply causes inconvenience. For businesses, cybersecurity threats can disrupt workflow and cause lost revenue. In some cases, they can even destroy consumer trust and cause irreparable damage to the company.
11 Types of Cybersecurity Threats Targeting Small Businesses
Raising awareness about cybersecurity in your organization is vital to the health of any modern business. To get you started, our guide will give you a brief overview of the most common cyberattacks and how you can deal with them.
1. Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are the most common cybersecurity threat that small businesses face. They account for 90% of all data breaches and cost companies over $12 billion in losses annually.
They’re usually delivered via email or fake websites, but recent cases suggest they’re getting more complex.
A phishing attack happens when an attacker pretends to be one of your trusted contacts. Once the fraudster successfully disguises himself as your business partner, the attacker may send you a message that requires you to click through a link, download a file, or share confidential information.
Upon acquisition, they can use the data they’ve gained for identity theft or put it up for sale for their clients.
Since phishing scams are socially engineered threats, they are very difficult to identify. The good news is you can easily prevent them by investing in an email security gateway.
Paired with the right policies and cybersecurity practices, your company can keep phishing attacks at bay. Here are just a few best practices to avoid phishing scams:
- Avoid opening emails from senders you don’t recognize.
- Be cautious of opening attachments you weren’t expecting.
- Be wary of messages asking you to make unusual purchases
- Be wary of messages that require quick action in relation to financial matters or transactions.
2. Compromised Passwords
In 2020, research showed that 81% of breaches were the result of poor password security. This statistic should be a cause for concern since some of your employees may be using weak passwords or reusing codes for both their personal and work accounts.
Employee training is one of the easiest and best ways to help staff keep their logins secure. Encourage them to follow these guidelines:
- Avoid easy-to-guess codes such as “123456” or their birthdays.
- Utilize different characters, symbols, and a mixture of upper and lower case letters.
- Enable two-factor authentication, which adds another layer of protection to their accounts.
- Use a different password for every account.
- Utilize passwords with extended character lengths of more than 8 characters
- Educate staff on the use of a password manager
As they use cloud-based services and other digital tools, you should educate your staff on basic password management.
3. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack is when a hacker spies on your conversations with a business partner. Since you and your client may be exchanging sensitive information through email or a messaging platform, the hacker monitoring your discussions may get a chance to steal data.
Dealing with a MITM attack can be tricky since this is hard to detect. Hackers commonly use phishing sites, traffic re-routing, and other similar tactics to execute this, so you need to take preventive measures. Fortunately, using end-to-end encryption alongside good cybersecurity practices will help keep your interactions private.
4. Server Attacks
Your web server is a vital component of your company’s digital infrastructure. Since it stores valuable information about your business, hackers won’t be shy to infiltrate it. Falling into a denial-of-service (DOS) attack or SQL injections must be avoided at all costs since they can disrupt operations and threaten your clients’ security.
One good way to safeguard your web server is to improve cybersecurity awareness in your organization and remind your employees to stay vigilant about their online activity. But other than telling them not to visit unencrypted sites or download suspicious files, constant server monitoring is your best bet.
Investing in antivirus programs, web-server scanners, and other cybersecurity solutions will give you all the protection you require.
5. Malware Attacks
Malware attacks have always been one of the biggest cybersecurity threats that small businesses face. Hackers have been using viruses and malware for the longest time to access networks, siphon data from devices, and even cause hardware problems. Malware can be contracted in several ways and deal a massive blow to your company’s financial stability.
There are several types of malware. Here are some of the most common ones to be aware of:
- Trojans or Trojan Horses: Named for the Trojans of ancient history, this type of malware disguises itself as genuine software to trick users into loading and executing its program.
- Spyware: This kind of malware often runs in the background, attempting to steal personal data like credit card numbers, banking information, and passwords.
- Adware: Software that collects personal information and displays unwanted ads based on your history.
The best way to prevent such attacks is to manage your staff’s devices. Since some may be using personal laptops or phones for work, the lack of security software can put them at risk of a hack. Ensuring that their devices are updated, installing antivirus programs, and blocking unsecured pages from your network will guard everyone in your organization.
Check out our eBook guide on Understanding and Defending Against Advanced Malware.
In IBM’s 2022 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, 21% of exploitative activities are from ransomware attacks and are the number 1 attack type. This is a specialized type of malware that penetrates your database and prevents you from accessing it. Once it successfully gets into your system, your data will be held hostage until you pay a “ransom” to these offenders. This type of attack is usually delivered through phishing emails but can also be done by exploiting gaps in your security system.
Hackers love targeting small businesses with ransomware for two specific reasons:
- Cybersecurity protocols in small businesses can be sloppy and underdeveloped.
- The high risk of losing essential data can make small business owners more desperate to pay off the ransom.
In 2021, 623 million ransomware attacks were perpetrated, so this should be enough reason for you to double down on cybersecurity.
7. Bring-Your-Personal-Device Policies
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees found themselves working from home using their own equipment. As many businesses today have adopted a hybrid work approach, working onsite can still be a cause of concern. Many businesses allow their employees to utilize their personal devices for work. This may help your business cut costs, but many risks come with it.
Some of your employees’ gadgets may not have proper protection, putting them at greater risk of cybersecurity threats. Once a virus infiltrates their phones or laptops, it can find its way into your network and spell trouble for your business.
Providing employees with company-issued devices may be costly, but it’s a great way to stay protected—especially if you have employees who work remotely. Once they have new devices, encourage your staff to keep them separate and avoid using them for personal activities like paying bills, online banking, or Netflix. This will minimize the risks to both your company and the employees.
If this option is out of your budget, you can guarantee your business’ safety by installing security software. If you’re dealing with employees who work from home, encourage them to follow the best cybersecurity practices for a remote workforce.
8. Fake Apps
Now that the world has gone digital, mobile app usage is at an all-time high. Due to its widespread use and relevance among all sectors, hackers are making the most out of the situation by producing fraudulent applications. To give you a better idea of how this threat has grown, around 65,000 fake apps were identified in December 2018 alone. In Q1 OF 2022, a report was made that many fraudulent apps are even being distributed in official app stores, making it harder for people to track these fake apps.
When a fake app is installed on a phone or laptop, it can access the user’s personal data and eventually break into the company’s network. To ensure that everyone in the company is safe, tell them to download apps from credible platforms only, read reviews of these apps before downloading them, and invest in the necessary security programs.
9. Distributed Denials of Service (DDoS)
Imagine that your phones are constantly ringing and preventing other customers from reaching out and talking to you. This is what a DDoS attack is like. It’s a cybersecurity threat that aims to take down a network or website by overwhelming its servers with web traffic.
The congested traffic can significantly slow down your website or even take it offline entirely, blocking users from accessing it. This can be especially problematic if you rely on eCommerce or page views for revenue.
You can prevent DDoS attacks by identifying and stopping traffic from malicious IP addresses and watching for signs of slowdowns on your website. In some cases, you’ll have to work with your network provider for maintenance and prevention.
10. Socially Engineered Attacks
Instead of breaching a network remotely or using a phishing site to install malware, cybercriminals physically infiltrate a business and use psychological tactics to steal data.
For example, an attacker may invade your building, impersonating a co-worker, police officer, or another business partner to gain your trust. Once inside, they’ll collect information by accessing your computer and plugging in a USB device loaded with malware.
Unlike other issues that can be solved through technical means, preventing socially engineered attacks will depend on your company’s protocols. Having visitor policies in place will ensure that no suspicious individuals can enter your establishment and engage in questionable activities.
11. Insider Threats
Anyone who is currently or was previously associated with your organization can be labeled as an insider threat. Since your employees or former associates have accessed critical information about your company, there’s a possibility that they may cause a leak. While many insider breaches are done with malicious intent, some instances are caused by simple carelessness.
Luckily, there are many ways to eliminate insider threats in your company. Limiting access to certain information and files to only a few people will prevent both intentional and accidental leaks. At the same time, building a company culture that greatly emphasizes security will remind your employees to stay accountable for their actions.
Keep Your Precious Data Safe
Despite the rising number of data breaches, many companies still take cybersecurity for granted. Only 14% of small businesses are prepared to deal with an attack; don’t be one of them. In the event that you find gaps, acquiring comprehensive IT solutions will keep you out of the reach of hackers. Visit our Cybersecurity Services page to learn more, or contact us for a free assessment of your cybersecurity.