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Is Your Business Too Small For Hackers?

hackerFor many years the average small business was an unlikely target for a sophisticated cyber attack. But, just because your company is small that doesn’t mean it can’t net huge payoffs for attackers. Hackers are starting to move away from “big scores” that are harder to accomplish, and are moving on to smaller and ultimately easier and more profitable thefts from small and medium-sized businesses, whose generally lax to non-existent security systems make for easy and quick money. A concentrated series of easy attacks against more-vulnerable small businesses can ultimately enable a hacker to orchestrate a much bigger attack elsewhere.

While big business continues to be in the news (Target, Home Depot, Yahoo, eBay, Honda Canada), according to the National Cyber Security Alliance one in five small businesses falls victim to cybercrime each year. And of those, some 60 percent go out of business within six months after an attack. In other words, you’ve got a 20 percent chance of being hacked, and if it happens there’s a good chance your business is finished. In fact, 93% of companies that lost their data for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within 1 year.

Cyberattacks on small business rose 300% in 2013, and it is now becoming clear that hackers consider it more feasible and much easier to victimize smaller firms and companies, even if for a much smaller amount of money. In fact more than 31% of all targeted attacks were against small and medium businesses.

Why is that? First, smaller companies generally have much more vulnerable IT systems. Security is minimal or average at best, and the hackers don’t get as much heat or attention when compared to trying to breach the much more complicated, state-of-the-art security systems of bigger firms and businesses. Second, the tools used by hackers and cybercriminals have become so cheap, so easy to acquire and so easy to use that one need not necessarily be a bona-fide hacker or very smart to do this.Third, small business owners assume hackers would need to pick their business out of millions of others, not realizing that the attacks are automated and focused on discovering vulnerabilities.

A survey, conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance and in partnership with Visa, shows some interesting, if not disturbing, results. It turns out that many small businesses (about 65% of the respondents) are highly dependent on their computer / IT / data systems. However, as many as 85% believe that they will not be targeted by hackers and online thieves, and less than half have data security systems in which they are confident. In general, small businesses have, at best, a very mediocre security system. Few realize that it only takes one breach to compromise a company’s finances and relationships with clients. And if you have less than stellar security, stealing from you is easier.

It is very clear that small-business owners do need to be smart. Small companies can no longer rely on security through obscurity, because automated hacking tools from all over the world are constantly scouring the Internet for vulnerable machines. Meanwhile, every company of any size now has an overwhelming abundance of connected devices and cloud-based services that present a feast of opportunity for attackers.

The unfortunate truth about digital security is that protecting your business from online threats isn’t a one-time expense or a set-it-and-forget-it solution. It’s an ongoing process and a necessary part of running any business that relies on data and the Internet for its survival. Your website, your desktop and laptop computers, your mobile phones, and all the online services you use to manage every aspect of your business are all potential entry points for an attack. And if you don’t protect them, or if you put security on the back burner as a future project, your company may not survive to get a second chance.

The most worrisome aspect of small business hacker readiness that I see is the 69% of Canadian Companies that are victims of cyber attacks. Even worse is that 90% of them do not have a working backup.

Smart business plans for the unexpected. If you still have concerns about keeping your business truly safe, seek out the assistance of professionals who can advise with options and blueprints to make your business secure.

About Bob Milliken

Bob Milliken is the owner and president of Cascadia Systems Group, a leading provider of enterprise hosting, business continuity, and IT Services to clients throughout the lower mainland. With over 30 years in the IT industry, Bob has provided technology solutions and business consulting services to the transportation industry, aerospace, the national railways, retail auto, wholesale and retail distribution, and professional service associations. Bob learned his trade with technology industry leaders Univac and Microsoft and continues today to keep abreast of technology innovations. Bob is the Master of Disaster and is known for his expertise in Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery planning. His “Save Your Monkey” disaster recovery platform protects small business from unexpected disaster. Bob is also an expert in Cloud Computing. His Made-in-Canada cloud solution is used by small and medium-sized businesses to keep their data safe and out of the reach of the US Patriot act. Bob is the co-author of “What is Cloud Computing and Why Should I Care”, and “I Don’t Care, Just Fix IT”. He is also the author of “Computer Cents”, a series of weekly news articles and blogs that focus on the impact that today's fast changing IT technologies are having on Canadian Businesses, and is a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines. Bob is a member of the Surrey Board of Trade, the Surrey Board of Trade Innovation Council, and Vancouver Rapid Time Networks. In his spare time, Bob is a sailor and appreciates any time that he can spend on the water.

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