By Halle Ramsey, former staff member
Many of us have seen the front page headlines detailing data breaches of huge corporations such as Twitter or Uber resulting in millions of dollars in settlements or fines. These examples of cyber attacks can make it seem like only large companies should be concerned with protecting themselves from hackers.
Cyber attacks, attempts by hackers to damage or destroy computer networks, are not risks exclusive to big corporations. In reality, 71 percent of cyberattacks occur at businesses with under 100 employees, according to SCORE. Small businesses are ideal targets for cybercriminals because they possess desired data and typically lack security infrastructure.
Large companies usually have whole departments focused on data storage and protection which is not usually possible for small businesses. According to Keeper Security’s 2019 Cyber Threat Study, 6 out of 10 small businesses have no digital defense plan to prevent cyberattacks. As small businesses grow their online platforms, small business owners must understand best practices to keep company and client data protected.
Increased online traffic can put small businesses at greater risk to be victims of cyber crimes including identity theft, data breaches, and malware. The impacts of a cyber attack are devastating no matter the size of a business. In 2018, cyber attacks cost small businesses an average of $34,604. Additionally, businesses typically become aware of a data breach after 191 days, which leads to repeated attacks, according to SCORE.
The good news is fairly simple and consistent efforts can better protect small businesses from cyber criminals. For example, passwords for accounts storing private data should be changed every 3 to 6 months. Absolutely avoiding public Wi-Fi while working on business related projects and establishing clear protocols for employees when they receive suspicious emails are other effective strategies to defend businesses from online threats.
To help entrepreneurs learn more about protecting their business and customer data, the Center for Rural Affairs has partnered with SCORE to host six free weekly webinars from Jan. 12through Feb. 16 that will dive deeper into topics such as cleaning up passwords and identifying cyber threats. Participants will be given the resources and knowledge necessary to be smart on the internet and protect their data.
For information on registering, visit cfra.org/events.