If we’ve learned anything in these past few years, it’s that no one is immune to cybercrimes. Major enterprise companies are no longer the sole target of cyber criminals, as nearly 70 percent of small businesses (SMBs) have experienced a cyber attack within the last year. As technology advances and the threat of cyber-attacks heighten, SMBs must step up their security practices in order to survive.
Because small businesses have smaller budgets and limited resources to spend on training and security systems, they’re an ideal target for cyber attackers. Negligent employees are in fact to blame for 54 percent of SMB data breaches. While this has been a widely discussed issue recently, moving forward, SMB’s will need to take stronger action to defend themselves against their own employees. Recommended precautions include:
Employee education: Ongoing cyber security training for all employees is essential. Interactive demonstrations, mock drills and other hands-on techniques can help prepare your team for an attack. Ensure employees know the signs of a potential threat and your company’s policy for reporting and combating them.
Password Protection: Improving password security is the easiest way to prevent a breech. 59 percent of businesses are not tracking employee password usage, imposing strong password requirements or forbidding password sharing. That means valuable data is left vulnerable. Regulating password requirements or implementing a double authentication policy are recommended.
Ransomware is one of the most prevalent attacks on small businesses and has been an issue for many years. A form of malware, this type of attack blocks users from accessing their own data or applications and demands ransom money be paid in order to regain access. Hackers of this sort specifically target small businesses who may not be fully trained in cyber security and therefore, often infiltrate systems through phishing emails or website infections. What makes ransomware so threatening is that new strains of ransomware are constantly being developed.
Cryptomining is a process by which cryptocurrency transactions are verified. While historically, ransomware payments have come through credit card transactions, this emerging technology will likely replace that. By implementing software on SMB’s networks, cyber criminals can utilize a computer’s resources to mine cryptocurrency. This appeals to today’s cyber criminals as they find it more efficient than ransomware and it allows them to further drag out an attack–obtaining as much ransom payment as possible.
A rising threat of 2019 is the use of social media as a platform for cyber attacks. As criminals look for new ways to bring down a business, experts believe cyber-extortion through business’s personal accounts may become an issue. Spreading fake information or falsified news stories that could irreparably damage a brand’s reputation pose a threat to any SMB with a social media account.
What makes this sort of attack so terrifying is that it’s very hard to contain. Because botnet accounts are used, the harmful information looks legitimate and the accounts are difficult to have removed. Additional methods of social media hacking can occur by manipulating personal information out of business’s customers. Utilizing fake accounts, cyber criminals work on building trust with a specific company’s customer network and trick them into believing the fake account is owned by the business. From there, customers who think they’re interacting with the targeted company are tricked into providing personal details to a disguised criminal. Bank account and user login info can all be potentially harmed through social media attacks of this sort.
Artificial intelligence is continuously advancing and creating new opportunities for good and unfortunately, for evil. It’s expected that cyber criminals may take advantage of the latest AI developments in 2019. Recently, Nvidia revealed unnervingly lifelike human face rendering. The fear behind facial rendering technologies such as these is that they may be used to create entire fake personas to engage in criminal behaviors, such as the spreading of harmful disinformation.
Moving forward, small business owners must be hyper-vigilant to the threat of a cyber criminals. Through proper precautions, awareness, and training, surviving a cyber attack is possible.
Author Bio: Maddie Davis is co-founder of Enlightened Digital and a tech-obsessed female from the Big Apple. She lives by running marathons and reading anything and everything on the NYT Best Sellers list.