(VIDEO) DON GLIDEWELL — The threat of cyber crime to businesses is real

If you think that cyber crime isn’t a threat to your business, think again.  The topic came into the mainstream during the holidays with the cyber attack on Sony Pictures.  If you are a business owner or someone who is responsible for data security at your company, it would be wise to take note of the trends.

According to a report from the U.S. Identity Theft Resource Etner, there were over 720 major data breaches during 2014, impacting over 81 million records.  Of these 720 breaches, 42 percent were focused on the health care industry, which is one of the most sensitive areas in today’s digital environment.  The majority of the breaches originated through the internet, through viruses that were purposely designed to identify and relay back sensitive information to the cyber criminals who either seek to profit by their crimes, or else who seek to spread confusion, terror, and loss to advance their “cause”.

Small businesses were more likely than large companies to be hit by cyber attacks, and the cost to these businesses was painful.  According to the Ponemon report, the average cost of cyber-crime per company in the United States was $12.7 million, and small concerns had a higher per capita cost than large ones ($1601 versus $437).  Among institutions, energy and utility companies experienced the costliest attacks, followed by financial and health care institutions.

With so much at stake from the loss of valuable data, institutions, government, and businesses have a tough battle ahead as criminals and terrorists become more sophisticated and creative.  Less than a month into 2015, we’ve already seen a major data breach at a major investment bank involving stolen account data from hundreds of its wealth management clients.  Some of that stolen information was posted online for over 900 of those clients for a brief period of time.

According to research from industry leaders, the top 3 breach possibilities include: the inadvertent misuse by insiders; loss or theft of company assets from a variety of means; and, internet and mail phishing activities.  Small businesses are a key target for much of this activity.

More than 50 percent of the working population are employed by small businesses, and these businesses are the lifeblood of our nation, representing over $990 billion contributed to our nation’s economy.  I predict that during the next 5 years, we’re going to see a dramatic increase in cyber breaches in the small business sector.

If there is a silver lining to the cloud, it may be that the Sony attack has brought new awareness of the importance of cyber security to companies and institutions across America.  As a result, many are waking up to the possibility that a cyber attack is possible in their own back yard, and are beginning to place more emphasis on protection and prevention from the cyber criminals who inhabit the shadows of the technology industry.  But this awareness must be translated into concrete and definitive action, as unfortunately, we’re only seeing the beginnings of what will likely become an increasingly bigger problem in the coming months and years.