We’ve all read the headlines of cyberattacks on big businesses and government entities—hackers swiping millions of credit card details, Social Security numbers and other personal information. But have you thought about what the consequences a cyberattack against your small business could be?
While your specialty shop, hotel or consulting agency may not seem like it’s making a big difference in the market, it is one of 30 million small businesses that create the foundation of our country’s economy. It’s also becoming one of the top targets for cyber villains looking to create chaos and swipe sensitive information.
Why Hackers Target Small Businesses
While hackers dream of reeling in the big fish, this often takes a lot of time, effort and risk. Instead, many cast a line to a much easier target, netting valuable information from unknowing and unprotected small businesses. Hackers know that most small businesses don’t have the resources or the know-how to safeguard their sensitive digital data and that many business owners rely on the security of a false belief that their firm is simply too small to be raised as a target. It’s like leaving your front door wide open before you head out for your two-week beach vacation because you live in a “safe” neighborhood—you’re practically inviting thieves to come in and take a look around.
The cyberthreat isn’t expected to go away anytime soon, either. Cyberattacks are rising across the board for all sized companies but are growing at a particularly quicker rate for smaller businesses. In 2018, 67% of small- to medium-sized businesses fell prey to a cyberattack and 58% suffered through a data breach. Still, 47%t of those companies admitted to having no idea how to protect themselves against cyberthreats.
With nearly half of businesses lacking cybersecurity knowledge, and even more lacking a sufficient contingency plan, we can expect to see more and more companies (and their clients) fall prey to the devastating effects of a cyberattack.
The Aftermath of a Cyberattack
Recovering from a cyber incident costs an average of $120,000 for small businesses and can easily go higher. Not only must businesses invest in fixing the damaged portions of their infrastructure and software, but they must also be concerned with possible lawsuits and reputational damage that could lead to lost business and increased insurance premiums.
While the cost of cyberattacks can be damaging and inconvenient for big corporations, it is usually crippling for small businesses. Nearly 60% of small companies are forced to fold after a cyberattack, hanging the “out of business” sign on their front door and stepping away.
Still, the business owner isn’t the only person to suffer from the effects of hackers. These leaks can affect clients, employees and possibly even the economy.
Damages Small-Business Cyberattacks Can Have on the Economy
While our society seems to be ruled by large corporations, small businesses surprisingly play a very prominent role in a healthy, balanced economy. Together, these small shops and firms power our workforce, stimulate spending and create the necessary foundation for banks and large corporations to flourish. The fall of these small businesses, which employ nearly half of our nation’s workforce, could have a drastic “trickle-up” effect on our economy and possibly even be the cause of our next recession.
Sure, one small business closing its doors won’t send a wave of panic across the nation, but imagine millions of our home-grown, local companies shutting down due to malware, data leaks and other cyberattacks. This phenomenon could put millions of people out of jobs, reduce consumer spending, decrease deposits into banks and caution future entrepreneurs from pursuing their innovative, yet risky, business dreams.
How to Protect Your Digital Assets
Hacking into the digital system of a small business can be easy, especially since many business owners are increasingly relying on the convenience of online communication, work management and data storage without arming themselves against the risks that lurk behind every click and keystroke.
Many hackers find their way into your system through employee accounts, cloud apps, phishing emails, unsecured devices and poor payment systems. Small businesses can better safeguard against these threats by:
- Educating themselves and their employees on smart digital security strategies, such as better passwords and spotting phishing emails.
- Researching the security features of third-party payment systems, cloud storage and other services.
- Monitoring employees’ personal devices and other devices outside of the secured network for security breaches.
- Putting contingency plans in place to thwart off threats and quickly recover should a cyberattack occur.
- Hire outside firms to monitor and protect against cyberattacks.
If you’re a small-business owner, you shouldn’t take the threat of cyberattacks lightly. Protecting your digital data and learning how to recover from attacks that may happen can keep your information safe and prevent your company from becoming another statistic.