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6 Common Security Risks Threatening Small Businesses in 2023

Updated: Apr 20, 2023



Cybersecurity threats pose a risk to all businesses, regardless of their size or experience. With the increasing sophistication of hackers and the prevalence of sensitive data stored online, even a small cyber attack can cause significant disruptions and harm a company's finances and reputation.

To safeguard against such threats, it is crucial for every organization to understand common types of cyber attacks and implement a risk management plan. In this regard, the following are some of the major cybersecurity threats that companies should be aware of, along with strategies to prevent them.

Ransomware

Ransomware is currently one of the most significant cybersecurity threats that companies must remain vigilant against. This malicious software infiltrates secure systems or data on a computer, locks and encrypts them, and then demands a ransom for their release. Ransomware can result in severe financial damage and compromise sensitive data.

Unfortunately, ransomware attacks have been increasing in recent years, affecting businesses of all sizes and even multinational corporations. In 2022, for example, major companies such as Yum! Brands and Ferrari were targeted by cybercriminals with ransomware, and government entities have also fallen victim to such attacks, including the UK's National Health Service in 2022 and 2017.

To prevent ransomware attacks, companies should take several precautions. Firstly, they must configure their systems properly with secure endpoints, firewalls, and antivirus software to prevent unauthorized access by hackers. Additionally, it is essential for all team members to avoid clicking on links or opening emails from untrusted sources, as ransomware attacks often begin with unauthorized downloads. Finally, when downloading new software programs, companies should verify the source and ensure they are reputable to prevent potential attacks.

Social Engineering

Social engineering and phishing attacks have been around for decades, but they remain significant threats to digital security today. While the general public is now more aware of phishing attacks than they were 20 years ago, hackers have become more sophisticated in their social engineering techniques.

Social engineering refers to a hacker manipulating their target into revealing sensitive information or compromising their digital security in some way. Phishing is the most common type of social engineering, where a hacker poses as a trusted contact through email, text, or social media to gain access to secure information like passwords or social security numbers.

Other forms of social engineering include whaling, baiting, and honey trapping. Whaling targets high-level business executives or government officials, baiting offers "free" rewards in exchange for personal information, while honey trapping feigns romantic interest to gain a target's trust. These are only a few examples of social engineering tactics, and we can expect to see more as hackers discover new vulnerabilities to exploit.

According to a Verizon study, 20 percent of cyberattacks in 2022 utilized some form of social engineering. To protect your organization, you must train your entire team to recognize and avoid phishing emails.

Phishing messages can be deceiving, looking like they come from trustworthy sources such as Google or Amazon. Still, closer inspection reveals something is off, like poor spelling and grammar or an offer that is too good to be true. Training employees to identify and avoid these messages is crucial to keeping your organization safe. Spam filters and antivirus programs can help identify and block some social engineering attacks, but creative ones are likely to slip through, so staying alert is necessary.

Cloud Vulnerabilities

Over the past few years, organizations worldwide have adopted cloud-based apps and networks as they offer great flexibility and the ability to work remotely. Cloud services provide access to software with just an internet connection and even smartphones can be used for work. However, with convenience comes security risks that are unique to cloud technology. If the cloud provider experiences a security breach, your data can be compromised. This is why choosing a provider that takes cloud security seriously is crucial. The provider should have transparent security measures and help you ensure that your servers are configured correctly.

Moreover, cloud services are accessed from different devices and network connections, some of which may not be secure. If a user accesses the cloud via an unsecured wi-fi network, a malicious actor on the same network can access your systems and sensitive data.

In 2022, about 80 percent of organizations faced cloud-related security incidents, and security professionals expect cloud-based data breaches to increase further in 2023.

Encrypting the data stored in the cloud adds an additional layer of protection, reducing cloud vulnerabilities. Restricting the number of people who can access your systems also reduces the risk of data breaches.

Internet of Things (IoT) Devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical objects that can communicate with each other via the internet. Common IoT devices include smart thermostats, security systems, and voice-controlled assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo. Although these devices are convenient and offer helpful services, they are vulnerable to cyber attacks.

IoT devices can be exploited as a gateway to the rest of your network. Cyber criminals often use Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks via cloud-connected IoT devices to flood your system with traffic, rendering it inaccessible to normal users. In addition, IoT devices can be targeted with other types of attacks, such as SQL injections, malware, and man-in-the-middle attacks.

It's crucial to take cloud security measures with every IoT device to protect them from potential attacks. Regularly updating your IoT devices and protecting them with firewalls and other security measures is important, just like you would for your computers. Using strong passwords and limiting the number of people who can access the devices is also critical.

As the global IoT market expands, we can expect to see more sophisticated IoT devices with better security. Regardless of the type of IoT device or what it does, it's important to take the time to properly configure it for maximum security every time a new device is implemented. Especially in fields like healthcare that deal with large volumes of sensitive data, the security of IoT devices should be taken seriously.

Third Party Exposure

Working with vendors and service partners is essential for many businesses, but it also comes with added security risks. If one of your partners experiences a security breach, your organization could also be at risk. With the rise of SaaS programs, outsourcing your operations online is more convenient than ever, but it also makes your organization more vulnerable to a data breach. The number of organizations that have experienced a third-party security incident rose from 21 percent in 2021 to 45 percent in 2022.

To mitigate these risks, it's crucial to ensure that your partners take security as seriously as you do. Before starting a partnership, conduct a comprehensive audit of their security practices to ensure they meet your standards, particularly in industries with strict compliance standards like healthcare, finance, or defense.

Signing a contract that outlines the security measures to be taken and the response to a security breach is also important. Regular security check-ins with your business partners will ensure that your systems are up-to-date and secure, as new threats emerge. Limiting third-party access to your systems through a least-privileged data access model is also crucial to protect sensitive data.

In summary, taking the time to properly vet and maintain a secure partnership with third-party vendors can significantly reduce the risk of a security breach for your organization.

Insufficient Cybersecurity Practices

Cybercrime is often the result of inadequate security measures. It's important to prioritize your information security strategy, as the risk of a data breach is high. Neglecting cybersecurity, such as using weak passwords, failing to update software, and working on unsecured networks, can make you vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Small business owners may find cybersecurity overwhelming, and 47% admit to having no understanding of how to protect their organizations from cybercrime. But taking proactive measures to secure your organization now will prevent future headaches and expenses.

Start by implementing basic security practices, such as scheduling regular system updates and working from secure networks. You can also consider outsourcing to a managed IT service provider like MapleTronics for additional support. Managed IT services are scalable and can help you implement stronger security practices to safeguard your data. Their team of experts can assess your systems, reconfigure them as needed, and monitor for threats to prevent data loss.

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