Today’s hackers are becoming more sophisticated and are finding new ways to infiltrate a company’s computer networks and servers. From stealing credit card information, performing identity theft, or holding data at ransom, businesses are feeling the urgent need to address network vulnerabilities.

While large corporations get the media spotlight whenever a breach occurs, it is actually the smaller businesses that are coming under increased fire from malware and spyware attacks. Recent reports confirm that no company is too big or too small to become a victim of a data breach. In fact, last year an estimated 43% of cyberattacks were on small businesses.

Why should this concern large corporations? Because small businesses work with large organizations every day. Business partners, suppliers, service providers, and more, can be used as the gateway by malicious attackers to access the valuable data of large companies.

Business Partnerships Are a Cybersecurity Risk

Because larger companies invest heavily in network security technology, hackers are looking for other access points into their data systems. Many target smaller businesses that have partnerships with larger corporations as the ideal penetration point to carry out security breaches. SMBs contracted by larger ones often share large amounts of data and network access in order to perform their services.

“More than half of all small businesses suffered a breach within the last year. It cost an average of $200,000 to remediate. And yet only 14% of SMBs are prepared to defend themselves from a cyberattack and mitigate risk.” – CNBC

So, the threat is real and the threat is vast. The cost of a security breach – in terms of remediation, fines, lawsuits, and after-the-fact security measures – can cause small companies to fail completely. And yet the cost of third-party data breaches for their large corporate partners and business associates can be even greater.

Why Are Small Businesses the Target of Cyber Crime?

Unfortunately, small businesses are easier targets for cyberattacks. Phishing, malware, ransomware, weak passwords, web applications, and insider threats are the biggest cybersecurity issues facing small businesses today. These are some of the factors contributing to their attractiveness.

Lack of Preparedness

There is an immense gap in cybersecurity readiness between companies of different sizes. Less than 66% of businesses reporting revenue under $50 million have a cybersecurity program set up, while 81% of companies making twice that do. And many don’t have plans to implement further security in the future.

Since small businesses are less likely to have advanced security protections in place and generally less scrupulous about the third parties they do business with. This makes them tempting targets for cybercriminals.

Underestimated Risk

Many small business owners and executives miscalculate the cybersecurity risk that their company faces. Thinking that their company is too small to be targeted or their data lacks value for hackers are just some of the myths that SMBs believe. One source found that 82% of small businesses think they’re immune to cyberattacks because they “don’t have anything worth stealing.”

As a result, they tend to brush off the cybersecurity as an unrealistic threat for their activity. Budgeting and organizational decisions that follow will reflect this.

Limited Security Budget

Though IT managers may understand the threats challenging their business, their employers may not. Without a common agreement, it can be difficult to get the funding required for adequate security mitigation.

For SMBs – where budgets are tight – this is particularly true. One of their biggest challenges is the limitation on resources to build and run extensive cybersecurity programs like those at bigger companies.

Reckless Adoption of New Technologies

Especially now, as many traditional companies are being forced to pivot to more digital activities, attackers are taking advantage of new opportunities. SMBs are increasingly adopting new technology, but aren’t always aware of the new security risks that they represent. Yet, understanding the risks that are possible is the first step before detection and prevention can even come into play.

What Is Preventing Cybersecurity Readiness among Small Businesses?

Even with the knowledge that cybersecurity breaches can occur at businesses of any size, smaller operations still seem reluctant to take the necessary steps to safeguard their network and IT systems.

  • Initial and continuing costs for adequate cybersecurity measures,
  • The large effort needed to develop and implement cybersecurity initiatives throughout their operations,
  • Not fully understanding cybersecurity technologies or the reasons for implementation,
  • Lack of buy-in among decision-makers in the company.

Small business owners are more focused on bringing in profits and building their reputations with customers than they are toward protecting their data systems, or the data systems of partner companies. Yet, they are the most vulnerable to a catastrophic cyber-attack.

This circumstance has unfortunately created a dire predicament. Here, security is seen as an unnecessary cost, rather than a strategic asset that protects even the prospect of revenue.

Large Companies Can Help Strengthen Cybersecurity for SMB Partners

No business lives in a vacuum. Manufacturers, distributors, accounting, IT technicians, transportation and many other industries rely on each other for products and services. So, cybersecurity shouldn’t just be left to smaller businesses. Large corporations can step up to the plate and offer solutions.

First, large corporations must understand their small business partners’ existing cybersecurity measures and pain points. The five main security risks small businesses face are: employee negligence, the failure to enforce existing data security policies, as well as lack of data encryption, security protocols for mobile devices, automatic data backup and recovery procedures.

Large corporations can help close the backdoors by offering simple, scaled cybersecurity solutions to smaller partners. An enterprise security initiative can include IT and cybersecurity training for SMB employees. Large corporations can also offer free VPN and private business-to-business computing systems that ensure secure connectivity and access for both companies along with enhanced monitoring of data systems. In addition, large corporations can provide multi-factor authentication and authorization technologies.

Cybersecurity collaboration can be the ideal workaround for better assurance when working with small businesses. Most importantly, this method allows SMBs to gain cybersecurity awareness and implementation skills that will help protect both partners moving forward.

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Focus on Disaster Preparedness 

Cyber-attacks from outside sources, unauthorized access to network systems by employees to create computer disruptions or perform fraud, and other information technology risks can completely incapacitate a small business. Now, more than ever, small businesses need to develop disaster preparedness plans and recovery protocols for their operations in the case of flooding, fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake or massive cybersecurity attack.  

To help your small business partners and vendors, your organization should provide guidance on how to properly prepare for disasters. 

  1. Identify the unique set of threats that have the potential to disrupt the small entity’s business continuity.  
  2. Categorize disasters based on their impact to critical operations during short-term and long-term time frames in order to determine the tools, resources and funding needed to ensure the right disaster recovery services.  
  3. Develop multiple disaster recovery plans that address different emergency situations for the various entities and physical facilities that the business operates. 
  4. Create a contingency plan that covers the costs, time, and setup operations that will be needed. It should also address data storage and network systems. 
  5. Implement disaster recovery with employee training and testing the plans. Use testing and external audits to discover any issues with procedures and improve security measures.  

Cloud Computing Is Changing the Game for Small Businesses

In 2020, small businesses are increasingly taking advantage of cloud services. The affordability and enhanced security features of cloud services are helping to eliminate disparities between companies of different sizes.

“…Due to the proliferation of services available as commodities in the cloud, including platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and any other *aaS of which you can conceive, a small business can behave more like a large one than ever before. Therefore, we asked ourselves the question, ‘Have the differences in capabilities evened the playing field out a bit between the two with regard to the detection of and response to security incidents?’…’Yes!’ – Verizon 2020 DBIR

We Provide Information Security Support for Large & Small Businesses 

Businesses of all sizes need a roadmap to achieve comprehensive cybersecurity readiness. I.S. Partners, together with AWA, is a compliance and IT process improvement leader. We help your organization pinpoint gaps in existing data security control, develop policies, and achieve your company’s security goals. 

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