Cyber Security Threats for Small Businesses

Cyber crime has grown at an alarming rate in recent years. High-profile cases of hackers breaching large corporations now hit the press on a regular basis. However, the majority of cyber crimes are aimed at small businesses, and experts believe thousands go unreported every week.

Small business owners must accept that cyber crime is one of the greatest threats of trading in the digital age. The Internet is used for everything from sales and marketing to processing payments, and this can open the door to hackers and online fraudsters. If a small business suffers a cyber attack, it can result in financial losses, disruption to trading, and loss of reputation.

Human error and failure to implement basic security processes are often the causes of a business becoming a victim of cyber crime. Understanding these security weaknesses will help business owners avoid digital crimes.

1) Passwords

Some experts predict that biometric security protections will replace passwords in the next few years, but for the time being, passwords are key to online security. All businesses should set out password protocols to ensure they are effective. For example, they should contain at least six characters and a mix of numbers, letters, and other characters. Passwords should be changed on a monthly basis, and the same one should not be used for different systems and accounts.

2) Personal use of computers

Accessing social media accounts and entertainment websites can open doors to hackers. Potentially harmful sites should be blocked from company IT equipment if possible. All staff must understand the risks of cyber crime and their responsibility for protecting the business they work for. Use of company tablet computers and smartphones should also be subject to restrictions.

3) Malware and ransomware

“Malware” is a term used to describe a range of different malicious software including spyware, worms, and keyloggers. Malware was originally used for pranks and to cause disruption, but it is now used for extortion and profit. Ransomware is a worrying development in cyber crime, and some experts are concerned that law enforcement agencies aren’t able to deal with the growing number of incidents. Ransomware is used to deny users access to their own systems and data. Criminals offer to remove the malicious code in return for a payment, but agreeing to this often leads to further extortion.

4) Outdated software

Running software updates on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do to protect your computer systems. Updates are occasionally released to enhance software or fix bugs, but most are now developed to address security weaknesses. Cyber criminals look for ways to exploit vulnerabilities in programs to deliver malware or open access points for hacking. Software developers are constantly working to close potential security gaps, and running updates regularly means you can benefit from any improvements made.

5) Mobile devices.

The rise of tablets and smartphones have made it possible to work or run a business when you are away from your premises. Unfortunately, this opens up a number of security threats and means sensitive information could fall into the wrong hands. Mobile devices should be locked with strong passwords and never left unattended. Antivirus and other security software protections are just as important for mobile IT equipment as for laptops and desktop computers.

Small business owners need to respond to the threat of cyber crime, and understanding potential weaknesses helps reduce the risk of an attack. New forms of digital crime are emerging at an alarming rate, so this is a subject business owners can’t ignore.