Make education your first line of defense against fraud.

Published on May 28, 2024

Make education your first line of defense against fraud.

The news is filled with alarming stories of security breaches, and while bigger corporations typically dominate the splashiest headlines, this type of attach can be equally—or even more—devastating for a small business. Cybercrimes against small businesses are on the rise, with one report finding that 41% of small businesses fell victim to a cyberattack in 2023, a rise from 38% in 2022 and close to double the 22% targeted in 2021.

While you might assume there’s little you can do to prevent them, the reality is they often occur when someone within an organization unknowingly provides access. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, education is the best first line of defense. Here is how your company can illuminate the dangers of fraud and help protect your proprietary data—and reputation.

1. Explain common types of attacks.

Knowledge is your ally as hackers become ever more sophisticated. While many of your employees might be savvy to various schemes, it’s smart to repeatedly underscore various ways thieves infiltrate a system. Some of the types of cyber threats proliferating today include:

2. Share simple steps to avoid sabotage.

The top way to thwart one of these nefarious attacks is by exercising extreme caution before opening attachments or clicking on links, regardless of how legitimate they may appear. Hackers have become alarmingly skilled at disguising malicious content with enticing subject lines and even spoofing email addresses to make messages seem like internal company communications.

There are also a number of habits that can help safeguard your system, including updating passwords cyclically and requiring multi-factor authentication (MFA). This simple step alone could help protect your systems, yet is rarely taken. A survey of SMBs from the Cyber Readiness Institute finds more than half (55%) of companies haven’t set up MFA and of those that have, just over a quarter require employees to use it.

Remind employees to update their operating system regularly, especially when they use their own device to log into your company’s files—an increasingly common practice as employees turn to AI to help them with their work. The 2024 Work Trend Index from Microsoft and LinkedIn found that nearly 80% of respondents are using their own AI tools at work, which could put company data at risk.

Employees might be more apt to comply with these steps when you highlight how they’re crucial to protect their own personal accounts, as well. One study found that only 15% of consumers used a password manager and only 24% used MFA. However, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, consumer data breaches are on the rise, just as they are with businesses.

3. Build a fraud-resistant culture.

No one can afford to let their guard down, as a single lapse in judgment can compromise systems and data. Even if you deploy the best cybersecurity tools and practices, they only work if they’re used correctly—and that means ensuring your team adheres to your policies.

Keep education top of mind with frequent refreshers where you reiterate that small actions can have big costs. For example, you might make it a habit to share news stories of cyberattacks to reinforce how common they are.

And, be a good example yourself. Encourage staff to be transparent if they’ve inadvertently clicked on a questionable link or otherwise slipped up. It’s better to know about a potential issue than have them try to hide it.

As cyber threats increase in magnitude and number, it’s critical to be vigilant to thwart these bad actors. Emphasizing best practices and reminding the team that fraud prevention is everyone’s responsibility can help keep everyone on appropriate alert.

Looking for more insight into small business best practices? Visit Valley Bank’s Learning Center to learn more.

For informational/educational purposes only.