Why small businesses are the newest cyberattacker’s target of choice: cybersecurity must-haves

Published on Feb 08, 2023

Why small businesses are the newest cyberattacker’s target of choice: cybersecurity must-haves

It’s a common misconception that larger enterprises are ideal targets for cyber criminals. In fact, the opposite is often the case: small and medium-sized businesses have less to spend on cybersecurity threats. Most have smaller (if any) staffing to protect networks and keep information safe.

Small businesses can’t take any chances with cyber threats. Hackers see a small organization as an easy target to access and compromise information systems for an easy score. There are ways businesses can use technology and data management tools to help secure their devices from threats, as well as incident response systems to mitigate damage after it happens.

They’re less likely to consider themselves a target

News headlines tend to be reserved for major data breaches at large enterprises, startups, or national and government databases. The truth is, small businesses are much softer targets for cyber criminals, thus making them a bigger target than they might realize. These may be smaller wins for cyber attackers, but they also come with less risk of failure or arrest when they succeed. 

Some small businesses may not know cybersecurity basics either. What are the five types of cybersecurity? They’re critical infrastructure security (your network and computers), application security (the safety of the apps you use), network security (how safe your on-site connections are), cloud security (how safe your off-site storage is), and the Internet of Things (IoT) security (how safe your internet-connected devices are on a network). Each of these are a potential vector for criminals to enter your network.

Even if the money or information hackers get from your network is small for them, they can still wreck your company’s bottom line. It’s important to consider your business, and the information contained within its network, as vulnerable as you would if you ran a billion-dollar enterprise. Data theft is the same whether it happens to an individual, small business, or global corporation: the size of the haul is the only differentiator. 

Think of it this way: a random mugging on the street is an easier crime to commit than a bank robbery, but the intent is still the same. Just as you’d stay vigilant with your personal belongings, so too should you be on guard with your company’s sensitive assets.

They have smaller budgets for cybersecurity tools

Small businesses usually operate on tight budgets. This doesn’t always mean there’s money left over to invest in cybersecurity tools. Cybercriminals know this, meaning that the opportunity for a quick score against a small business is higher than it would be for a large business or corporation.

Entrepreneurs are used to wearing many hats across their organization. That’s fine in some cases, but not when it comes to keeping information systems safe. There’s only so much that a novice can do to keep devices and services secure across a network. 

Some cloud computing services can offer top-tier security tools to help keep your information safe without requiring you to source and manage these tools yourself. Firewalls can help control who accesses your network, thus preventing attacks from even getting to your system. 

There are other options, such as third-party monitoring services, that can help monitor traffic on your network to flag suspicious activity. There are also add-on tools like endpoint detection and response platforms  that can do some of this work for you at a lower cost.

Most use outdated or unsupported software 

Computer systems require maintenance and frequent updates. On a small business scale, that’s not always an easy thing to accomplish. There’s the fear of downtime if an update takes a system offline or causes another piece of software to break. This is particularly worrisome for businesses that may rely on outdated software, which can result in more outages as well as more vulnerabilities to get through. 

It’s critical to keep up with software updates. This can be a challenge for companies that are culturally reluctant to change, or those that rely on software that is no longer supported by developers. 

That being said, it’s better to migrate from those kinds of tools in the long term since doing so will make for a safer computing ecosystem. There are often tools that can do the same thing as apps no longer being worked on (if not better). Once a provider tells you they’re not providing support for an app or platform anymore, that’s an ideal time to reach out to them or their competitors to find a tool that will stay current.

Few invest in employee training

Large corporations have entire teams dedicated to educating and empowering the typical software user. Small businesses? Not so much. The challenge here is that small businesses often don’t think of themselves as large targets; thus, they’re less likely to engage and invest in the kind of training that could help their teams stay vigilant against attack.

Be sure to stay on top of training for your employees. This may take the form of self-guided modules on the low end, but should realistically be an in-person, hands-on experience to ensure employees truly understand how to use their devices safely. 

Many companies also conduct phishing tests via email to help keep employees on their toes. These simulated phishing attempts have the look and feel of a real phishing attack: an attention-grabbing subject line, a sender that looks like it came from someone important in the business, and text that looks like a regular business request. If an employee clicks on a link or downloads a file, you’ll receive a notification and they’ll receive a warning. These tests should be done often in order to keep employees on their toes.

What you need to keep your business safe

The best thing small businesses can do to stay safe is to invest in intelligence, vigilance, and education. An empowered and knowledgeable workforce can help stop most attacks before they even have a chance to enter your network. Good computer hygiene—not downloading files from unknown sources or clicking on links from unknown senders—can thwart many straightforward attacks. Investing in tools to help combat more sophisticated attacks comes next, followed by investing in IT that can help keep your business safe on the technical end. All of these efforts should complement each other in order to keep your business safe online.

Valley is here to support you

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or you’re unsure, please contact your Banking Team, reach out to Valley Customer Care at 800-522-4100, or connect with us at valley.com/security.