Even small businesses need to be wary of cyber attacks: Resources to help

When most of us think about cyber attacks on businesses, we think of the numerous large corporations that have had their systems compromised and mined for customer credit cards information and other valuable data. But did you know that even small businesses are at risk of hacking, a problem that can quickly put you out of business? According to research done by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting online safety, and Symantec, a leading provider of security software, attacks in 2011 (most recent data available) cost small and medium-sized businesses an average of $188,242 and almost two-thirds of victimized companies are forced out of business within six months of being attacked.

Unfortunately, a 2012 survey conducted by the same organizations shows that few small business owners take the necessary steps to protect themselves from this threat. Even though 71% of the small business owners surveyed said their business is dependent or somewhat dependent on the Internet for its day-to-day operations, their answers to questions about security policies do not indicate they’re taking action  to protect themselves from cyber attacks. For instance:

•  69% of those surveyed do not have a formal written Internet security policy for employees. And 69% do not have even an informal Internet security policy for employees.

• 87% do not have a written plan in place for keeping their business cyber-secure while 14% do have a written plan

• 60% do not have a privacy policy that employees must comply with when they handle customer or employee information while 38% do have a privacy policy.

As someone who helps businesses build good reputations and strong brands, I was alarmed that 75% of the companies surveyed do not have policies regarding how their employees use social media while on the job. While misuse of social media may not be a direct financial threat like the hacking of company bank account information would, it can have immediate and even long-lasting negative effects if your company’s reputation takes a major hit.

The NCSA has lots of information on its website that can help you improve your cyber security, including tip sheets and other resources. In addition, here are two other helpful resources you should explore:

• The Federal Communications Commission has a Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0 that will let you select options that apply to your individual work flow and then receive a custom-tailored action plan.

• At OnGuardOnline.gov, the Federal Trade Commission offers an e-mail newsletter other information on cyber security for small businesses.

And here’s a link that offers counter measures you can take to lower your risk: https://www.broadbandsearch.net/blog/business-cyber-security-facts-statistics

The topic of cyber security can be intimidating if you’re not a computer wizard. I know my eyes start to glaze over sometimes when I try to read about this topic. However, the threat to your small business is real, and the resources mentioned above are written in easy-to-understand language that you don’t have to be a geek to understand.

One of the most important takeaways I got from reading up on this topic was the importance of making sure employees are constantly aware of the need for cyber security. It doesn’t work if you’re the only one who is thinking about this subject. Employee education plays a major role in keeping your business safe from cyber threats. So include everyone in the discussion.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover