When cyberattacks make the news, they’re usually about large corporations and government agencies that were caught off guard by the latest exploits. The media usually focuses on these high-profile incidents because of the staggering financial losses, reputational damage, and sheer scale of the attacks.

Unfortunately, this perpetuates the misconception that only large organisations are at risk of cyberattacks. The reality is that small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Australia face just as much risk for cybersecurity, if not more.

Why are SMBs a prime target for cybercriminals?

SMBs are an attractive target for cybercriminals because they usually don’t have the same level of resources that larger organisations have access to. As such, there’s little room in their budget to invest in professional security consultants, comprehensive network security solutions, and other cybersecurity measures. This makes it easy for the most sophisticated malware and exploits to slip through the cracks.

SMBs also store and manage treasure troves of valuable data, including customer information, financial records, and proprietary documents. Such data fetches a high price on the dark web, proving SMBs lucrative ventures for cybercriminals.

Moreover, many SMBs have the notion that they’re too small to be a target, causing them to underestimate the risks and neglect their cybersecurity responsibilities. This type of mentality is simply gross negligence and can have disastrous consequences. Attackers don’t discriminate between large and small organisations. If a company has sensitive data that are relatively easy to access, then it’s a viable target.

What are the biggest security risks concerning SMBs?

Although cybercriminals don’t launch attacks based on the size of their target, SMBs are particularly vulnerable to certain threats. For starters, SMBs are vulnerable to distributed denial-of-service attacks and ransomware since they usually don’t have strong network security measures. Ransomware, in particular, is a huge problem for SMBs without a solid data backup plan because they’re more likely to pay an exorbitant ransom to regain access to their data.

SMBs are also especially susceptible to phishing scams because they may not have adequate security training to detect and avoid these attacks. Password theft is another common concern since employees use the same, easy-to-guess passwords across multiple accounts.

Sometimes the biggest threats to an SMB aren’t always external. Rogue insiders may abuse their access privileges to leak and steal classified information from the company. In other cases, a data breach could be purely accidental, like when an employee mistakenly sends a sensitive file to the wrong person.

How can SMBs defend themselves?

Given an SMB’s budgetary constraints and risk profile, it’s better to prioritise certain cybersecurity investments such as the following.

1. Network security

SMBs should invest in network security solutions to identify and block malicious traffic from entering their systems. These solutions include firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and secure web gateways. SMBs should also regularly monitor their networks for suspicious activities, such as unauthorised logins, unusual file access, and erratic bandwidth usage.

2. Endpoint protection

Endpoint protection solutions are designed to keep employee devices safe and secure. Such solutions cover a range of software, including anti-malware, application control, patch management, encryption, and more. With endpoint management software, SMBs can remotely patch company-registered devices, remove malware, and wipe data from lost or stolen devices.

3. Identity and access management (IAM)

IAM solutions allow SMBs to control who has access to which data within their networks based on user roles. This way, SMBs can limit the access of certain users to confidential data and restrict their ability to modify or delete files. IAM also allows system administrators to track user activities, set password policies, detect privilege abuse, and enforce multifactor authentication.

4. Data backup and recovery

Data backup and recovery solutions protect SMBs from data loss. SMBs should back up all critical files regularly and store them in an off-site location. This way, they can quickly restore lost data in the event of a data breach or ransomware attack.

5. Security awareness training

Since most breaches are caused by human error, SMBs should invest heavily in security awareness training. The training should teach employees how to identify and avoid phishing scams, use strong passwords, spot suspicious activities, and properly handle company data. Conducting routine drills and assessments can also help employees stay alert, remember best practices, and take the necessary steps to avoid costly data breaches.

6. Vulnerability assessments

A vulnerability assessment is a comprehensive review of an SMB’s systems to identify security gaps or weaknesses. Such assessments should be conducted at least once per quarter so that any holes in the security can be patched before an attacker exploits them.

7. Expertise

Implementing a robust cybersecurity strategy requires considerable technical expertise, resources, and time. As such, SMBs should hire a managed IT services provider (MSP) to help them set up and manage a secure infrastructure. 

MSPs have teams of security consultants who can develop customised security solutions, configure systems to meet compliance requirements, and offer timely support in case of a breach. The best part is that MSPs charge on a pay-as-you-go basis, allowing SMBs to tap into high-level expertise without paying for an in-house IT team.

Empower IT Solutions is an experienced MSP that offers comprehensive cybersecurity solutions tailored for SMBs. From evaluating your security posture to implementing the right solutions, we can keep your business safe. Call us now.

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