For a relatively long time, small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) flew under the radar of nefarious hackers and other cybercriminals. Unfortunately, that time is forever gone. According to a study from the Ponemon Institute, roughly two-thirds of SMBs around the world are now experiencing cyber-attacks, and the situation is getting alarmingly worse in certain regions.
In the United States, cyber-attacks increased as much as 21 percent in a span of just one year, becoming not only more frequent but also more sophisticated and potentially costly. Despite these facts, 43 percent of SMBs in the US and UK are at increased risk of a data breach because they have no cybersecurity defense plan in place, as revealed by BullGuard-commissioned research.
It’s clear that SMBs must make cybersecurity their priority to successfully defend themselves against the growing number of cybersecurity threats that could jeopardize their very existence. Let’s take a closer look at 5 worrying cybersecurity threats that all SMBs should address in 2020.
1. Remote Worker Endpoint Security
In 2020, remote workers have become the new reality for many SMBs. With this new reality came a sharp increase in the number of connections from employees’ personal devices, many of which are not protected in any way whatsoever.
Cybercriminals have been quick to take advantage of remote workers connecting to critical apps and services over unprotected Wi-Fi using their personal devices. Cybersecurity researchers issued numerous alerts about fake smartphone apps and websites posing as COVID-19 maps, and that’s just the tip of a much larger iceberg.
To protect their workers, SMBs must go way beyond traditional antivirus and implement a modern endpoint detection and response (EDR) solution capable of detecting threats outside the corporate network. They must also enforce basic security practices like two-factor authentication and the use of a virtual private network (VPN) for corporate network access.
2. Phishing Scams
Even though phishing scams are one of the oldest cybersecurity threats, they are responsible for one-third of all data breaches in one way or another, according to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR). In most cases, the goal of phishing scams is to steal usernames and passwords to circumvent cybersecurity defenses of an organization and infiltrate its network.
Over the years, phishing scams have evolved from “Nigerian prince”-style email scams (which still cost their victims hundreds of thousands of dollars each year) into a more targeted variant known as spear phishing, which involves precisely-crafted emails being sent to known victims.
For SMBs to effectively protect themselves against all forms of phishing scams, they must train their employees to recognize them and install a phishing filter on their email application. Employees should be encouraged to verify suspicious requests in person or over the phone, even if it means a slight delay.
Ransomware is by far the fastest-growing cyber threat all SMBs need to pay attention to. Its costs are forecast to reach $20 Billion by 2021, up from $11.5 billion in 2019 and $8 billion in 2018. According to the latest report from Coveware, the average ransomware demand amount is now around $85,000, which is more than enough to put many SMBs out of business.
What makes ransomware so dangerous isn’t just the fact that it prevents access to important data. The real danger of ransomware stems from the inevitable downtime it causes. Without access to their data and systems, SMBs are unable to operate, which results in additional financial burden in the form of lost profits.
To reduce the downtime caused by a successfully executed ransomware attack, SMBs should keep their business data safe with real-time backups and a well-thought-out disaster recovery strategy. Of course, traditional security solutions will always have their place on the front line of defense against ransomware, but it’s important to keep in mind that even best-in-class solutions don’t guarantee complete protection.
4. Cloud-Based Attacks
In an effort to keep remote workers connected and productive, many SMBs are moving to the cloud, exposing themselves to dangerous cloud-based attacks. Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed that 21 percent of data exposures (or 60 million records in total) were caused by misconfigured cloud-based file storage, highlighting just how fragile cloud-based infrastructure can be.
SMBs are aware of how challenging it can be to thrive in the cloud since only 57 percent describe their cloud maturity as being advanced or intermediate, according to the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report.
The solution is a comprehensive cloud computing risk management program that addresses all potential threats to the infrastructure and compliance risks. SMBs with limited prior cloud experience can partner with a provider of managed IT services to maintain focus on their core business while enjoying the many advantages of cloud-based solutions without succumbing to the risks associated with them.
5. Insider Threats
Statistics show that insider threats are at the heart of a third of all data breaches. Such threats come from current or former employees and other people within the organization with access credentials and inside information about security practices.
Insider threats can be broadly divided into two groups: turncloaks and pawns. Turncloaks are people within the organization who maliciously steal important data or infect critical systems with malware, while pawns are regular employees who happen to be exploited by a malicious cybercriminal.
Common insider threat indicators include unauthorized logins, transfers of substantial amounts of data, network crawling, violations of corporate policies, and even displays of disgruntled behavior toward coworkers. An insider threat detection tool can reveal some of these indicators while there’s still time to act, but only strict enforcement for privileged access management can make it impossible for employees to run away with data they don’t have access to.
To successfully address all the above-mentioned cybersecurity threats, SMBs must develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy and constantly keep adapting to the changing threat landscape. This can be quite a challenge for those who have little to no experience with cybersecurity and lack the resources necessary to build their cybersecurity defenses from the ground up. Such SMBs should partner with a provider of managed cybersecurity services and let them provide industry-leading security solutions.