A cyberattack can disrupt your small business. With good cybersecurity, you can stand up to bad actors.

  • Small businesses are directly affected by 61% of data breaches.
  • Implementing best practices, using strong passwords, and keeping your antivirus software up to date are key elements of a cybersecurity strategy.
  • DDoS attacks and man-in-the-middle attacks are among the most common types of attacks.

Online traffic exceeds 77 terabytes every second. In this way, the internet has become a digital Silk Road that facilitates nearly every aspect of modern life. Similarly to ancient merchants who were sometimes attacked by bandits on the Silk Road, modern entrepreneurs can easily be targeted by cyber criminals seeking to cause disruption and theft.

Cyberhackers target small businesses

It’s easy for new owners to put off cybersecurity measures. They might end up opening points of entry to hackers unless they focus on strengthening their defenses. That can be a major problem. According to the   National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small and medium-sized businesses fail within six months after a cyberattack.

Here are some cybersecurity attacks to be aware of

Hackers usually aim to gain access to a company’s network, no matter what target they choose sensitive datalike credit card numbers. Once attackers obtain enough identifying information, they can exploit an individual’s identity in a variety of ways.

Knowing how hackers access that information is one of the best ways to prepare for an attack. This is by no means a comprehensive list of possible threats, but because cybercrime is a constantly evolving phenomenon, business owners should at least be aware of the following types of attacks.

  • APT: Advanced persistent threats, or APTs, are long-term targeted attacks in which hackers break into a network in multiple phases to avoid detection. Once an attacker gains access to the target network, they work to remain undetected while establishing their foothold on the system. If a breach is detected and repaired, the attackers have already secured other routes into the system so they can continue to plunder data.
  • DDoS: An acronym for distributed denial of service, DDoS attacks occur when a server is intentionally overloaded with requests until it shuts down the target’s website or network system.
  • Inside attack: This is when someone with administrative privileges, usually from within the organization, purposely misuses his or her credentials to gain access to confidential company information. Former employees, in particular, present a threat if they left the company on bad terms. Your business should have a protocol in place to revoke all access to company data immediately when an employee is terminated.
  • Malware: This umbrella term is short for “malicious software” and covers any program introduced into the target’s computer with the intent to cause damage or gain unauthorized access. Types of malware include viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware and spyware. Knowing this is important, because it helps you determine what type of cybersecurity software you need.
  • Man in the middle (MitM) attack: In any normal transaction, two parties exchange goods – or in the case of e-commerce, digital information – with each other. Knowing this, hackers who use the man in the middle method of intrusion do so by installing malware that interrupts the flow of information to steal important data. This is generally done when one or more parties conduct the transaction through an unsecured public Wi-Fi network, where attackers have installed malware that helps sift through data.
  • Password attack: There are three main types of password attacks: a brute-force attack, which involves guessing at passwords until the hacker gets in; a dictionary attack, which uses a program to try different combinations of dictionary words; and keylogging, which tracks a user’s keystrokes, including login IDs and passwords.
  • Phishing: Perhaps the most commonly deployed form of cybertheft, phishing attacks involve collecting sensitive information like login credentials and credit card information through a legitimate-looking (but ultimately fraudulent) website, often sent to unsuspecting individuals in an email. Spear phishing, an advanced form of this type of attack, requires in-depth knowledge of specific individuals and social engineering to gain their trust and infiltrate the network.
  • Ransomware: A ransomware attack infects your machine with malware and, as the name suggests, demands a ransom. Typically, ransomware either locks you out of your computer and demands money in exchange for access, or it threatens to publish private information if you don’t pay a specified amount. Ransomware is one of the fastest-growing types of security breaches.
  • SQL injection attack: For more than four decades, web developers have been using structured query language (SQL) as one of the main coding languages on the internet. While a standardized language has greatly benefited the internet’s development, it can also be an easy way for malicious code to make its way onto your business’s website. Through a successful SQL injection attack on your servers, sensitive information can let bad actors access and modify important databases, download files, and even manipulate devices on the network.
  • Zero-day attack: Zero-day attacks can be a developer’s worst nightmare. They are unknown flaws and exploits in software and systems discovered by attackers before the developers and security staff become aware of any threats. These exploits can go undiscovered for months, or even years, until they’re discovered and repaired.

Securing your network

As companies continue to grow their online business, so, too, will the need for robust cybersecurity. In Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2019 Cybersecurity Market Report, spending on such products worldwide is forecast to increase from $3.5 billion in 2004 to $170.4 billion in 2022.

In order to give their networks at least some protection against many attacks, small businesses should generally install any number of basic types of security software available on the market, each with varying levels of efficacy.

Antivirus software is the most common and will defend against most types of malware.

A hardware- or software-based firewall can provide an added layer of protection by preventing an unauthorized user from accessing a computer or network. Most modern operating systems, including Windows 10, come with a firewall program installed for free.

In addition to these more surface-level tools, Cobb recommends businesses invest in three additional security measures.

  • The first is a data backup solution so that any information compromised or lost during a breach can easily be recovered from an alternate location.
  • The second is encryption software to protect sensitive data, such as employee records, client/customer information and financial statements.
  • The third solution is two-step authentication or password-security software for a business’s internal programs to reduce the likelihood of password cracking.

You should run a risk assessment, either on your own or with an outside firm.

Best practices for cybersecurity

Aside from implementing a software-based solution, small businesses should adopt certain technological best practices and policies to strengthen security.

  1. Keep your software up to date. Hackers are constantly looking for security vulnerabilities, and if you let them set for too long, you greatly increase your chances of being targeted.
  2. Educate your employees. Educate your employees about the different ways cybercriminals can gain access to your system. Make sure they understand how to recognize signs of a breach and how to stay safe when using the company’s network.
  3. Implement formal security policies. To secure your system, you need to implement and enforce security policies. As everyone who uses the network can be a potential point of attack, protecting the network should be everyone’s focus. Schedule regular meetings and seminars on the best cybersecurity practices, such as using strong passwords, Identifying and reporting suspicious emails, enabling two-factor authentication, and clicking on links or downloading attachments.
  4. Practice your incident response plan. There may be a time when your company is targeted by a cyberattack despite all your efforts. Your staff needs to be able to handle the fallout if that day comes. With a response plan, attacks can be spotted quickly and put down before they cause too much damage.